BATH — Kevin Thibodeau, a junior at Morse High School, is not your typical teenager.
When he was a little boy, he would insist that his friends not bring presents to him on his birthday. Rather, he wanted them to bring something for another cause, such as a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter.
He still doesn’t like birthdays, noting that, “Other people need things more than I do.”
When Thibodeau had fulfilled the requirements to be an Eagle Scout, he announced to his mother that he didn’t want to accept the award until the Boy Scouts of America allowed gays to be members.
“Everyone should get a chance to be a Scout,” he said. When the organization changed its policy, he agreed to accept the award.
When Thibodeau was in middle school, one of his good friends, a fellow member of the jazz band, committed suicide. “I had talked to him just the day before, and he was joking around. There was no sign that anything was wrong,” Thibodeau recalled.
“I was a quiet and awkward kid,” he said, who had borne the brunt of bullying as a child. He felt close to the boy who committed suicide because, “he had taken me under his wing.”
Some time later, a Morse High School student committed suicide.
These events hit Kevin especially hard, as he himself had thought about committing suicide. Moreover, his mother told him that a distant relative in Ireland had committed suicide.
“I decided I had to do something to prevent teen suicides,” Thibodeau said. To that end, he established Save a Life apparel. The organization sells wristbands, and he also plans to sell T-shirts and sweatshirts.
Thibodeau has also started sharing his own experiences about suicide. He speaks to health classes at Morse, beginning his talk with the words, “My name is Kevin Thibodeau, and I’ve thought about committing suicide.”
His talk made a big impact. “They really listened,” he said, “and tons of people texted me after the talk.”
Thibodeau keeps busy beyond his suicide prevention work and his scouting activities. He plays several musical instruments, most of which he taught himself, and he’s a member of a rock band, a symphonic band and a jazz band.
“Music helps you say what words can’t say,” he said.
Thibodeau also plays goalie on the Morse High School boys lacrosse team, and some college coaches have expressed an interest in him.
He is undecided on his future career plans, although he has considered becoming a veterinarian or a physician, or doing something that taps his fascination with psychology. His interest in veterinary medicine led him to spend time volunteering at the Loki Clan Wolf Refuge in Chatham, N.H., which provides a haven for wolves and wolf-dogs.
Thibodeau’s mother, Deb, takes understandable pride in her son. “Kevin has always been a thoughtful kid,” she said. “He’s always thinking about other people.”
His advice to his youthful peers reflects his thoughtful and caring nature.
“Do your work, don’t just play around,” Thibodeau said. “Get involved, and don’t be a bully.”
Eagle Scout Kevin Thibodeau, left, raises his hand as part of the scout’s pledge at the start of a Boy Scout meeting at the American Legion Hall in Bath.
One in a series of profiles by Brunswick writer David Treadwell about people who quietly contribute to the quality of life in greater Portland. Do you know an Unsung Hero? Tell us: firstname.lastname@example.org.