Funeral expenses an added burden—(

Original article no longer available.

First published in print: Monday, April 13, 2009

SCHENECTADY A fund has been set up to help the family of one of the high school girls who recently committed suicide pay for funeral expenses and a gravestone.

Spring Murray, a good friend of the girl’s mother, has established the Cherelle Clarke Fund at the Colonie branch of Pioneer Savings Bank’s. The account is named after the 14-year-old who committed suicide April 2.

Cherelle’s mother, Lisa Seymour, who is on disability from her career as an occupational therapist, said she can’t afford the more-than-$6,000 bill for Cherelle’s service and burial. Other family members are trying to help, but it isn’t enough, Lisa Seymour said.

”I don’t want to have to look for my daughter’s grave,” Seymour said about the extra money it will take to buy a marker in Parkview Cemetery. ”I’d love to have a beautiful headstone with her picture on it.”

Any extra funds raised will be donated to benefit suicide prevention or animal rescue efforts in Cherelle’s honor, Murray and Seymour said.

Cherelle was the fourth Schenectady High School girl to kill herself since Nov. 25, and was good friends with two of the other girls who committed suicide. The deaths have rocked the high school and have forced the school district, clergy and various county agencies to look for solutions.

Cherelle had battled many other demons.

Seymour said her fiance, whom Cherelle was close to, killed himself five years ago, and Cherelle’s cousin committed suicide about a year and a half ago. Seymour herself is battling bipolar disorder. Cherelle was already on Lexapro, a drug used to treat anxiety and depression, and was seeing a counselor at Northeast Parent and Child Society before her friends committed suicide.

The 14-year-old was also bullied, just like one of the other girls, before she killed herself. Seymour said Cherelle was jumped by a group of girls near their home in the Vale neighborhood about a month before her suicide. The attack was a gang initiation for one of the bullies, Cherelle told her mother. Cherelle made it home, but had two broken ribs and a concussion. Seymour said she wanted to report it to police, but honored her daughter’s wishes after she begged her not to, fearing retaliation. In her last weeks, Cherelle began skipping school.

Before this school year, Cherelle lived with her grandparents so she could attend Burnt Hills schools. But she moved back to Schenectady this school year to be with her mother.

Seymour said her two remaining children, ages 11 to 13, are all that’s keeping her going.

”I just don’t understand it,” Seymour said. ”She told me a few weeks prior she was depressed over the death of her friends, I rushed her down to (her counselor). She came to me with those thoughts. Why didn’t she come to me now?”

How to help

Donations for the fund should be addressed to Cherelle Clarke Fund, c/o Pioneer Savings Bank, 1761 Central Ave., Albany, NY 12205.