It has been six months since the death of 17-year-old Rylan Fuchs. The San Ramon Valley High School junior was shot outside his family's Danville home on the evening of Jan. 20 and he died hours later as a result of his injuries.
Fuchs' step-father, Ron Harmon, said it's not the months he keeps thinking about. It's the minutes.
"He came down the hall, dropped his plate off in the kitchen. He stopped to see what was on TV then he went back to his room and I swear two minutes later he was on the porch bleeding," Harmon recalled. "Seventeen years in two minutes. Just 17 years gone that quick."
Karen Williams, Rylan Fuchs' mother, said she finds it difficult to comprehend that her son was just...gone.
"I am still in complete disbelief and shock over Rylan's death. Words will never describe. People ask me how I'm doing and I say 'OK.' But OK doesn't begin to describe how I feel on a daily basis. It's just a pat answer I have come up with," she said.
Not only has the family had to deal with the grief of losing their child to violence, but they have also had to read news reports or see stories on television about how the teen's death was drug related, possibly a result of dealing drugs. Harmon said it is these stories that fill him with anger.
"This was a shock to us, the magnitude of what they claim it was," he said.
Both Harmon and Williams said they knew Rylan had been involved with marijuana, following a previous run-in at SRVHS, but the implication that Rylan was dealing drugs was something that for them makes no sense.
"I heard the 'pop' and then he thumped against the door. It maybe took me three seconds to get to the door from the couch. I didn't see any dope, money or anybody when I opened that door. And I looked," he explained.
Williams said the timing didn't make much sense.
"It had to be super quick, because the dog didn't even bark," she said.
Harmon agreed. "It had to be the quietest altercation you ever heard because I didn't hear anything," he said. "There was nothing. We never even knew he was out there."
Williams and Harmon are trying hard to understand what happened to their son - why he died and what could have been done to prevent it. While they are no closer to answers, they have taken strength from their tragedy to take a pro-active step to keep it from happening to someone else.
In February, the couple began the process of creating the Rylan Alexander Fuchs Foundation (RAFF). Their hope is that it would provide information to parents, guidance to at-risk children and eventually a safe haven where they can get together.
"RAFF is a way for us to make some good of this horrible situation," Williams said. "If we can help one child, one family, then Rylan's death will have meant something. It cannot be for naught. His life is over, but it cannot be forgotten."
The couple has completed the necessary paperwork to create the foundation and to get its state tax numbers. They are still in the process of getting their 501(c)(3) federal tax status, but that is something that will be happening over the next few months.
While they are still working on an overall plan for how RAFF will function and where it will work, the pair said they have definite ideas of things they want it to accomplish.
Williams said at the root they want the foundation to provide guidance to the teens in the Danville area about the dangers of drugs. Initially that will be through flyers and an internet presence. They are hopeful of establishing a presence at the high schools and use programs similar to "Scared Straight" to make kids aware of the consequences for getting involved with drugs.
"As a complete reality check, we want to take the teens to a morgue," Harmon stated. "They need to understand what dead is. Regardless of the cause, they need to see what the consequence can be."
That reality check, they say, needs to go to the parents too.
"Half the problem is that the parents have no idea," Harmon said. "Thinking that because we live here in this community that we don't have to worry about it. But let me tell you, it's just 25 miles away."
Harmon said it's simple economics.
"These kids can stand on a street corner in Oakland and sell $10 and $20 bags of weed. Or they can come over the hill and sell $100 or $200 bags of weed. And here they have a captive audience."
Enlisting the parents can also lead to more help at the high school. Harmon volunteers at Greenbrook Elementary School, where his step-son attends. He, along with several other parents, does "yard duty," patrolling the playground and helping keep an eye on the students. He said that concept needs to be put in place at the high school.
"If you walk around that campus, there's people out there at any time of the day just walking around. There needs to be more security. If you don't have a student body card, then you shouldn't be walking around the campus," he suggested.
Eventually, they are hopeful of putting a teen center in place, one where area teens can meet positive role models and get together in a safe environment. Harmon outlined programs such as midnight basketball and drug free dances that could be held at the center.
As they get their non-profit status finalized the couple said they plan to speak to the Town of Danville about partnering on drug awareness efforts. And Harmon has also begun talking to the Boys Clubs Alumni Association about the possibility of putting in a center in Danville. Should that happen, the foundation would be eligible for some federal funding to help get their programs moving.
In the mean time, they have begun setting up fundraisers to defray the cost of getting the 501(c)(3) completed, printing costs of the brochures and website design services. The first is a community garage sale to be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 16. The Grange Hall at 743 Diablo Road has been donated for the day. Donations are being accepted at two homes until Aug. 14.
Then on Sept. 26, a 5k run/walk will be held in conjunction with the Leadership program at San Ramon Valley High School.
Williams said that they are hopeful the two fundraisers will be a springboard that allows them to get off the ground, raising awareness and shining a light on a pervasive problem. Something, she said, could mean the difference between life and death.
"It will take time, but I want everyone to remember Rylan," she said. "What happened to Rylan could have happened to anyone's son or daughter. We need to make a difference."
For information on the foundation or how to donate, contact Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 925-285-2489.