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Family seeks to give kids bright future

Their son died young, but Doyles' gifts honor him

Nov. 24, 2009

When the Hart Park skateboard and BMX park is built, a small part of it will belong to Jack Doyle.

Jack, an avid inline skater, died Oct. 25, 2006, at age 13. In memory of the third anniversary of their son's death, Mike and Judy Doyle made a $5,000 donation to Tosa Skateboarders United.

Jack was involved in the early days of TSU, a community organization formed in 2005 to raise money for a skate and BMX park in Hart Park. The Doyles, now both TSU board members, said they hope their donation will further their son's efforts while giving back to the community that was so supportive during the days and months following Jack's death.

"We can't imagine being anywhere else through this tragedy," Judy said.

Though the Doyles' generous donation is only a small step toward the park's $560,000 price tag, the couple hope their gift will rally community members to the cause.

Mike said he sees the gift as a challenge.

"We're giving $5,000. Who will join us?" he said.

Wilke's Village Pharmacy, where Judy works, already has stepped up, pledging to match the Doyles' contribution.

Teens a source of support

The Doyles announced their donation at a gathering at their home that drew more than 60 of Jack's friends and family, including 40 teenagers from seven area high schools. More than 1,000 people paid their respects at Jack's funeral, and each year since, the Doyles have brought people together to socialize and swap stories about the kid they all loved.

Mike said it's touching to see Jack's friends, now teenagers with jobs and active social lives, take time to come back to the house where they used to hang out.

"The support - really, the love - that these kids have shown to us since Jack passed away has really been overwhelming," he said.

Many of Jack's friends are in their final years of high school and will soon leave for college. Though Jack won't be able to go with them, the Doyles have created a scholarship in memory of their son for the class of 2011, the year he would have graduated. The award will be given to one student at Wauwatosa East and another at West who have given back to the community that raised them.

In Judy's mind, all the Doyles' gifts are for the same effort.

"I think that ties in with being committed to getting this skate park built, investing in our youth," she said.

Educating parents a focus

The Doyles' work for TSU is only their most recent effort on behalf of their son.

Police initially determined Jack had taken his own life after Judy found him in his bedroom closet, slumped over on his knees with a guitar strap around his neck. But the apparent suicide didn't make sense to Judy and Mike, or to a Milwaukee County assistant district attorney who later determined Jack probably died while playing "the choking game."

The goal of the "game," popular among some young teenagers, is to achieve a quick high by temporarily cutting off the flow of oxygen to the brain. It's called auto-asphyxiation, and is usually accomplished by one person choking another or a person using a rope or other material to induce their own choking.

Kids play it thinking it's a safe alternative to drugs or alcohol.

When the Doyles finally realized the truth about Jack's death, they began participating in an international organization known as GASP (Games Adolescents Shouldn't Play) in the hopes of preventing more deaths related to the choking game.

Money needed for skate park

While they still plan to work with GASP, the Doyles are shifting their energy to help bring a skate and BMX park to Tosa. TSU has been raising money for the park since 2005, and is in the midst of relaunching fundraising.

So far, the group has raised more than $20,000, said TSU treasurer Mary Pruitt-Martinez.

The park has been designed, and the city has set aside space in Hart Park. All that is missing is the rest of the money.

Group leaders hope to partner with businesses and community organizations to increase awareness and find donors for both financial and material needs.

FYI

→ Check out a skate demo video made by Jack Doyle at youtube.com (search for "milw skate demo jack").

→ For information about Tosa Skateboarders United and the effort to build a skateboard and BMX park in Hart Park, visit tosaskateboardersunited.org or search for the group's page on Facebook.

AT A GLANCE

WHAT: Tosa Skateboarders United skaters and bikers will escort Santa Claus

WHERE: The motorcycle plaza at the Harley Davidson Museum, 400 W. Canal St., Milwaukee

WHEN: noon Friday

ONLINE: www.h-dmuseum.com

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