Kelly Holmstrom, President
Toni Groth, Vice-President
Stephanie Chandler-Tonstad, Secretary
Susan J. Reynolds, Treasurer
Ian Howard ACSWSecretary
Interested in becoming a Board Member? Our Board governs the overall execution of the organization’s mission. Principally, the Board manages organizational finances and sets long term priorities for programs. The Board also oversees the Executive Director, who is responsible for day-to-day management of the organization. Overall, the members of the Board contribute the educational, management, legal, and financial skills needed to ensure long term organizational stability and ensure year-to-year bereavement support activities to help family and friends after a suicide loss.
Cruz Ballew, Office Dog
Marilyn Koenig, Co-Founder and Executive Director
Kristine Cozine, Finance Director
May Ballew, Administrative Assistant & Volunteer Coordinator
Susan J. Reynolds, Project Manager
Valerie Gilzean, Social Media Manager
Marilyn Koenig: Easing Others' Pain
Marilyn still remembers the unbearable pain she experienced after her 18-year-old son Steven died by suicide near the family's Sacramento home in 1977. "I spent a good three years crying," recalls Koenig, 83. "It was such a horrible, deep sadness. If I got in my car by myself, I'd sob the whole time. In my head I knew what happened, but it took years for my heart to accept it."
Koenig, a mother of seven, realized she wanted to help others coping with the same loss — but that she'd have to create her own group to do it. "There was such a need for people to come together and share support," says Koenig, who launched Friends for Survival in 1983 along with eight others affected by the death of loved ones. Nearly four decades later, Koenig and her group of volunteers have helped 11,000 people begin to heal after a loved one died by suicide, held nearly 2,200 support meetings (eight times a month), mailed more than 11 million newsletters and launched the nation's first toll-free suicide loss help line.
"When someone first reaches out," adds Koenig, "even if they can't verbalize it, what they're asking is, 'Tell me how I'm going to get through this?' "
The group's work is needed more than ever, amid increased isolation and depression (nearly 45,000 Americans took their own lives in 2020).
"I had no idea how large the problem was," says Koenig. "I just knew I lost my son and wanted to help others."