‘The Lost Boys’ await memorial to honor mentor Eli Ellis
Eli Ellis was a natural leader and role model to a group of young locals called the Lost Boys. Two years after his death, Eli’s friends and family are awaiting a memorial bench to be installed in a place that was special to them all.
Sherwood Park is a city-owned lot north of City Park. It’s made up mostly of dirt, but for decades, Sherwood has been used by local youth as a BMX bike park. Ashley Ellis, Eli’s mom, said that years ago no one was really maintaining the park, so her son got tools together and started building jumps out of dirt to make the park better.
In his teen years, Eli became a mentor to a lot of younger kids who rode bikes at Sherwood, where the atmosphere wasn’t the most welcoming for them. But Eli, who once had a mentor of his own to bring him up in the biking world, took the younger riders under his wings.
This group banded together and became known as the Lost Boys. And they aren’t just boys either; they are young men and women who are now in their late teens and early 20s.
Gabriel Ellis, Eli’s sister, said that the torch has been passed a couple of times over the years, and there’s always someone to keep an eye out for the new younger kids coming into the park.
The Lost Boys have kept up on the park in Eli’s memory and have even renamed the tallest jump after him. They’ve already chosen a place for the memorial bench in a small clearing within a patch of trees overlooking that jump.
The second anniversary of Eli’s death was on Aug. 14, and his friends and family had hoped to have a memorial bench at the park by then, but the process has moved slower than they anticipated.
“It was a ridiculous fight, that didn’t have to be a fight,” Ashley said.
After a year of advocating and several trips to city council, a formal process for establishing public memorials has finally been adopted by parks and recreation. Ashley said Eli’s bench will be the first memorial to go through this process, as kind of a guinea pig project.
Ryan Dennison, parks and recreation director, said the department is excited for the commemorative bench and tree program, and they have developed a process that will make it smooth for families who want to participate.
This is a huge step forward after a lot of work has been put in by family and friends researching and finding sample procedures from other municipalities that already had an established process for dedicated memorials.
Because Eli was cremated and doesn’t have a headstone in the cemetery, the bench is even more important to the Lost Boys.
“It’s not just about me; it’s about them,” Ashley said. “These guys wanted a place where they could go to visit him because everybody has bad days missing him.”
The Lost Boys looked up to Eli, not only in biking, but in other walks of life too. Many of the Lost Boys didn’t grow up with role models in their lives whom they could turn to for direction or wisdom.
“They’re at my house a lot,” Ashley said, adding that several of the Lost Boys had come to live at the Ellis house for different periods of time.
Gabriel said that when any of the kids got in trouble, they would come to Eli, who is remembered for offering discipline in ways that were firm but loving.
Over the years, Ashley knew her son had helped several of these kids through dark times. That made Eli’s death harder on them all. Eli died on Aug. 14, 2020, when he took his own life.
Even though Eli’s friends and family didn’t have a memorial bench this year for his anniversary, that didn’t stop them from celebrating his life. Everyone got together at the lake for a barbecue, and Ashley said it was her way of checking on everyone and making sure no one had to be alone that day.
Since Eli’s death, several members of the group have taken QPR, suicide prevention training, to build peer support where it was lacking.
For his friends and family, part of Eli’s legacy, and what makes the Lost Boys special, is that they are there for each other when needed.
“The thing about these kids is that they have gotten me through these past two years,” Ashley said. “I will come home to a bunch of them lined up waiting to give me hugs.”
At least 20 Lost Boys, Eli’s family and his dog, Artemis, gathered Tuesday night at Sherwood Park to dust off the big jump, recount memories and share stories about Eli.
As a child, several people called Eli the little professor, and many of his friends can quickly recall things that Eli taught them. Whether it was safe handling of firearms, how to breed venomous snakes or how to build bikes, Eli shared what he was passionate about with others.
Gabriel said that her brother would always tell kids, “If you’re not crashing, you’re not learning,” and that if they learned one new thing every day during the summer, they would be a better biker.
When Eli was a junior in high school, he was hit by a car while on his bike and broke both of his legs. Ashley said that when they got home from the hospital, the Lost Boys were all lined up in the driveway to welcome him home.
Since Eli’s death his friends have fought over the mangled pieces of his original bike. The handle bars are the only remaining usable part and they are fixed to one of the Lost Boy’s bikes.
“He was quite a figure to these kids,” Gabriel said.
The hope is that by the fall a bench will be in place in Sherwood as a physical tribute to Eli, who would be turning 24 in October.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or thoughts of suicide, there is help available by calling Open Heart Advocates 24/7 Crisis Line 970-824-2000, the Colorado Crisis Line 1-844-493-TALK (8255), or the National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255 or 988.
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