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Community hears about tragedy, hope
July 30, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Doug Harris/Gering Citizen - The band Chye from Kearney entertains a crowd of about 1,200 people on 10th and O streets Saturday evening as part of the Blockstop free barbecue and street dance.

In a world where young people often make decisions that can lead to tragedy, a group of local pastors invited the area’s young people to a barbecue and to hear a positive message of knowing the truth about their lives.

Judging from the barbecue, about 1,200 people gathered in downtown Gering Saturday evening as Keith Becker of Kearney told the tragic story of the death of his younger brother, Todd. The events, called Blockstop, have been presented for the past four years.

“These free events are open to the public,” said Kirsten Klein, events coordinator for the Todd Becker Foundation. “Our band, Chye, also performs. Keith Becker speaks about his life and the decisions he made that also influenced his brother, Todd to live a life filled with alcohol and recklessness. He thought the further you got away from the rules, the more you lived.”

Keith was passenger in car when Todd was killed in a tragic accident in 2005.

“By the time of Todd’s funeral, Keith realized his brother had wasted his life and he was on the same path,” Klein said. “That led him on a search to discover how to live life fully and not waste it by avoiding the rules.”

The truth Keith found was in a relationship with God. “Keith didn’t know Christ at the time of the accident,” said Tim Hebbert, pastor at Gering Zion Church, one of the event sponsors. “He found Christ in his grief and he wanted to make sure his brother’s life meant something that would speak to other people. His message lets kids know that Jesus is the answer to a lot of the problems, all their problems really.”

Gering Zion is among 11 churches in Gering and Scottsbluff to sponsor the event, and provided the barbecue prior to the musical performance, and delivering the message.

“The volunteers have been incredible,” Hebbert said. “We put sticky notes on every home in the community. There must have been 200 people working the neighborhoods.”

In addition to Blockstop events, the Todd Becker Foundation also sponsors assemblies for high school students. For the past 10 years, Keith has shared his brother’s story, explaining that choices have consequences. He challenges students to make wise choices in a culture where those choices are often unpopular.

Recently, the Todd Becker Foundation has taken Blockstop to Grant and Broken Bow. “We’ve heard the towns are still buzzing,” Klein said. “It’s a fun event that also shocks people. It’s been a very good thing for communities to experience.”

Klein added she has family here and has visited often. “My heart was fully on board with this when they decided to come to Gering.
Mike Mead, pastor at Center Cross Community Church in Gering, is a former police officer. “I’m always interested in educating young people about the dangers of drinking and driving,” he said. “This event is something different that gives kids alternatives. I went through all this with my kids some years back.”

Mead also remembered a member of his church who was in the children’s ministry. On May 27, 2014, 17-year-old Salena Cochrane of Gering was killed in a rollover accident northwest of Mitchell.

“That really strikes close to home,” he said. “The message of this event isn’t just for young people. Adults need to hear it, too.”


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