Okemos, Mich. (WLNS) – After losing a son to suicide earlier this year, an Okemos family hopes to bring the community together around a message of improving mental health resources.

Losing 15-year-old Eli Fleetwood earlier this year affected many of the people who packed the 242 Church to mark the start of Eli’s Project.

Organizers of this new nonprofit said it will strive to raise awareness about youth mental health. For Eli’s family and friends, it’s another way to remember him.

“Very athletic. You know, he played football and lacrosse and a very good athlete. You know, very loved by the community and those around him that knew him really well,” said Eli’s dad, Zach Goldstein.

With music, food, rock climbing and even an animal show, more than 100 people helped founder Zack Goldstein launch Eli’s Project.

Since then, Goldstein said family, friends and supporters came together and crafted this new nonprofit, all with the hopes of sparking a conversation around youth mental health.

It was an idea that one of Eli’s friends was more than willing to support.

“Even though you could tell he was battling his own problems, everywhere you saw him, everywhere he always had a smile. Always tried to bring happiness to everybody. It didn’t matter if he knew them or not,” said Eli’s friend, Ashley Aguilar.

Aguilar first met Eli when he transferred to her school last fall.

A year later, she’s giving back as a reminder of all the memories the two shared by helping with the foundation and preserving his memory on paper and pencil.

“He was amazing. He left with a piece of my heart that I’m happy I let him keep,” said Aguilar.

Goldstein said the first task is promoting 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

He hopes to raise awareness of the emergency counseling service through business cards and apparel marketed toward teens and families.

He said the first step is not being afraid to talk about mental health and the real effects of suicide.

“We’re starting to recognize as a community and as a society. What impact it has on us and starting to look at avenues to fix it,” said Goldstein.

For now, family and friends sit together remembering Eli’s story.

Goldstein said those who support Eli’s Project hope to create a mental health first aid class to teach people how to help a person in crisis.