‘He was the light:’ Steilacoom family brings awareness to mental health to honor late son’s legacy

STEILACOOM, Wash. — A young baseball prodigy is being remembered as a radiant light who continues to shine brightly following his tragic death this past weekend.

The parents of 17-year-old Reese Widman told KIRO 7 they want their loss to help another family or teenager.

“We didn’t see it. He was the Robin Williams; he was the tWitch. We didn’t see it, and his friends didn’t see it, and nobody knew,” says mom, Kelly Sweeney-Widman.

Reese took his life on Saturday morning, a shock to all who knew him. He was about to start his final semester at Steilacoom High School.

Sweeney-Widman says he was known for his kindness and love of baseball.

“Baseball was his life. He loved baseball. He played year-round if he could,” says Sweeney-Widman. “He was the light in the room that brought joy.”

She says he had a bright future. He was a star athlete with plans to play college baseball and hopes to become a high school teacher.

His decision highlights the complexities of mental health. Those who knew Reese recall him with a constant smile or laugh.

“What could we have done? More? Better? How did we not see this?” asks dad, Corey Sweeney.

A baseball coach at Steilacoom High School, Corey says his son always encouraged his teammates and was a leader on the team.

His family hopes to honor his legacy by raising awareness for mental health issues and asking people to live like Reese.”

“We want to share that because it’s important for other people to get help and know that this is never an option. And how loved Reese was,” says Sweeney-Widman. “I think the most important thing to us is to know his memory is living on.”

On Sunday, hundreds of community members, classmates, and teammates came together for a vigil in Reese’s memory, their beloved #14. They joined together at the baseball field, one of his favorite places.

“He loved to pitch. He had the most confidence on the mound,” says Sweeney-Widman. “He was the best of the best, and everybody knew it.”

If you or someone you know is thinking of harming themselves, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free support via the Lifeline by dialing 988. For more about risk factors and warning signs, visit the organization’s official website.