There are few baseball teams as beloved as the Boston Red Sox, and there are few fans as passionate as the residents in and around Boston. Pam Kenn grew up in the Boston area as one of those diehard fans.
“My three brothers were big into sports, and it was just a part of my life. We always wore hats and shirts with the team logo. When I got to college, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but when I heard the word “sports” in a major, I immediately went for that. I decided to study Sports Management, and it led me to where I am today.”
Pam interned with the Boston Red Sox in college and has built her entire career with her favorite team. Having spent more than 23 years working for the Boston Red Sox, Pam is now the Senior Vice President of Community, Alumni and Player Relations.
“I always say that it feels like my life essentially has two parts,” she says. “The first part of my life was being a kid and growing up, and the second part has been ingrained in the Red Sox. It feels like a family to me. It has been such a major part of my life, and I have been able to be part of so many special moments because of this work.”
Pam says that some of her favorite moments at the Red Sox include being in the clubhouse when the team won the World Series on more than one occasion, hosting the party to celebrate David Ortiz’s induction into the Hall of Fame, and taking interviews after pitchers like David Lowe threw no-hitters.
But in addition to these celebratory moments, Pam says that her journey with the Red Sox has also had moments that have influenced her life in a very profound way. One of those moments was when Pam decided to invite Samaritans to come host a “Lunch & Learn” with the Boston Red Sox staff to equip everyone with knowledge and skills to support those around them.
“So many players sign when they are 18,” Pam says. “A lot of teams have seen the struggles that players go through for example, and players are less likely to speak about their concerns. I’m sure there are countless players who try to hide what they are going through because when you play, the fanbase is so passionate, and you are under a lot of pressure to perform. It can really get in your head.”
“This was in the wake of the losses of prominent people like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade,” Pam continues. “It was becoming a bigger issue worldwide, so we thought to invite Samaritans to come and teach us more about the signs. And that’s how I discovered that my brother was in trouble.”
Pam says that while Samaritans presented signs of mental health struggles that day, she continued to think to herself, “This is my brother Doug.”
“Samaritans opened my eyes to signs that I would have never equated to mental health struggles,” Pam says. “He sort of lost his way. The things he was passionate about were changing. He was enduring some job changes and medical struggles. I knew he was struggling with his health, but I didn’t realize the mental toll it was taking on him. He loved to make other people happy. I didn’t know that he was living with such a tortured soul.”
Tragically, Pam’s brother lost his life to suicide in 2019.
“Sometimes the loudest laughers are the ones with the hardest times to go through. Just because they laugh loud doesn’t mean they are okay,” Pam says. “We need to keep opening the channels of conversation and not dismiss something that could be bigger than what we ever imagined. I’ve been thinking about this a lot with the loss of Twitch. We often hear people say that we all need to stop assuming everyone is okay. I get that, but we also need to welcome conversation. You can ask and ask and someone might not tell you they are struggling if there is still stigma there. How can we make the conversation easier to have?”
Through Pam’s leadership, the Boston Red Sox have supported the Samaritans Breakfast For Hope for many years to help break the stigma of suicide. But after the loss of her brother Doug, Pam decided she needed to do more. Last April, she chose to run the 2022 Boston Marathon for Samaritans and in memory of her brother.
“There’s no other cause that could have driven me to do something so big and so difficult,” Pam says. “It was a way to honor my brother who was one of my biggest fans and a huge sports fan. It was something for my family to look forward to. It was a day of achievement for everyone, and it was my way of trying to take a negative thing and turn it into something positive. I still can’t believe I did it.”
As an incredible champion of the work that Samaritans does, Pam says that she hopes to see the organization become even more known for the support it provides.
“Samaritans saves lives not only through preventing suicide, but they save the lives of the people who are left behind, too. What you go through after someone takes their own life is something you cannot prepare for,” she says. “It changes all of the relationships in your life. As someone who lost my sibling, it changed my relationships with my other siblings and with my parents. You can’t navigate those things without support. Samaritans is always there to help.”