When Theron Rogerson was 9, he got a pet Quaker parrot — against the wishes of most of his family — and named him Oscer, because he was green like Oscar the Grouch.

But he misspelled it O-s-c-e-r. Oscer would climb up Theron’s arm to sit on his shoulder.

“Look, he’s like a hiker,” Theron would say in a goofy voice. “He always bees a hiker.” 

Theron loved Oscer, and Oscer only loved Theron, his mom Chrisi Rogerson said. The bird learned words and mimicked sounds like a zipper on a coat, and she said the bird would even mock the family when they laughed. 

“I never thought I would miss the sound of that bird,” Chrisi said in June, two years after Theron died by suicide on May 13, 2022, when he was just 19. 

On June 15, the second annual Run for Theron, a 5K and 1-mile race, was held at Granville High School in his honor. 

Theron loved to run. He was on Granville High School’s track and cross country team, and Mount Vernon Nazarene University’s track team. 

Theron’s parents describe their son as a down-to-earth guy who loved to bring joy to others, and he was fiercely loyal to his friends. 

During Theron’s senior year of track at GHS, several of his friends competed in the state championships. Even though Theron did not compete, he was their number one cheerleader. 

Jamie and Chrisi Rogerson recently launched Thrive for Theron, a nonprofit designed for mental health awareness and outreach. This was the first year they used the nonprofit to help put on the race. In the future, they hope to help support Granville High School and Mount Vernon Nazarene University, where Theron attended college, with mental health programs and suicide prevention for young people. 

Theron was close with his brothers Hunter, who is eight years older, and Chase, who is six years older. Even though there was a large age gap, they had a tight-knit bond. All of the Rogerson boys ran in high school, but Theron loved it the most. 

Courtesy of the Rogerson family

A couple weeks before Theron died, his parents went to one of his track meets at Kenyon College, where he was a hurdler. He was running the 200-meter and wanted to get his time into the 23-second range. Theron asked Chrisi to watch by the finish line so that she could take a picture of his time. Chrisi snapped a picture when he crossed the finish line and it read “Rogerson 23.99.” Theron was elated and posted the picture on social media. 

“It was a skill set that not everyone can run and clear a 42-inch hurdle and then keep running afterward,” Jamie said. 

Typically, runners will run in the morning, and a race will be early in the day to avoid oppressive summer heat. But not Theron, who hated early mornings.

“He and I would go to the track and practice hurdles during the summertime; it was always right around 6 o’clock,” Jamie said. 

Chrisi is the former head coach for the girls’ cross-country team at Granville High School. Last year, a former athlete approached her about doing a 5k race in honor of Theron, and to raise awareness about suicide prevention in the community.

The race also serves as a fundraiser for an annual scholarship in Theron’s name: The Theron Rogerson Scholarship

The scholarship — an award of $2,000 — is granted to a graduating male athlete at GHS “who embodies the spirit of competition, the determination to improve, and shares the joy of his teammates’ success.”  

“We were looking to find somebody who was a beautifully normal man like Theron was,” Jamie said.

The race starts at the high school, loops around Granville Intermediate School and returns to the high school, where 133 5K participants and 67 1-mile runners and walkers finished the race on the track at the Walter J. Hodges Stadium. Theron preferred track over cross country. 

Each year since his death, the Mount Vernon Nazarene cross country team has a workout in honor of Theron. There are 19 stations in the workout for every year of Theron’s life, and the times for holding positions, like a plank, are his personal records.

Courtesy of the Rogerson family

Theron had a sense of humor. He and his family had many inside jokes and goofy words only they could understand, and Theron kept a list in his phone of funny things his family had said. 

“He (Theron) loved to make anyone laugh,” Chrisi said. 

Theron was a huge fan of Pokemon Go. He walked around Granville and on Denison University’s campus looking for Pokemon. People would recognize him walking around playing the game and report back to Chrisi saying they saw him. 

“When his brother moved out to California, he’s like, ‘Oh great! If we go to the Santa Monica Pier, there’s some Pokemon there,’” Chrisi said.  

When Chrisi travels around Granville, she still recognizes where the Pokemon gyms are and where Theron would stop to catch Pokemon. 

Theron was an environmental biology major at Mount Vernon Nazarene, and he loved nature. He was particularly interested in birds. His grandma gave him a book about the birds of Ohio, and he would sit and watch the bird feeder in his yard. He studied the birds and could recognize types of birds by their call.

“He would sit out on the back patio holding a cup of nectar hoping that a humming bird would fly down and drink out of the cup,” Jamie Rogerson said. 

The Rogerson family planted a strip of wildflowers and have a bird feeder in their yard in Theron’s memory. They can recognize some bird calls, too — because Theron taught them.  

“The things that he loved he just immersed himself in,” Jamie said.

Theron’s birthday usually fell during Granville’s spring break, so he and his family would travel to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to celebrate. The past two years, the family has still traveled to Gatlinburg on his birthday, and hiked his favorite mountain, Chimney Tops

“We are a very close, tight-knit family. … I felt like our family was as perfect as it could be and this just really threw us for a loop,” Chrisi said.

Theron’s parents continue to spread mental health awareness in the community. They believe that a lot of kids are overwhelmed by their circumstances and feel alone. Jamie and Chrisi’s goal is to encourage conversations between peers so they can realize they are going through similar things. Then, people who may be struggling can find the tools they need to be supported.

“People should understand that it’s a show of strength to ask for help, and don’t try to do it alone,” Jamie said. 

“We don’t want his name to be forgotten,” he added. “His story can’t end on May 13, 2022.” 

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or having thoughts of suicide, you can reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988. You can also chat with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline here.

For more information about mental health care resources and support, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. ET, at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email info@nami.org.

This story was updated at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 17 to correct the location of one of Theron’s track meets and the height of a hurdle he cleared. The Reporting Project regrets the errors.

Caroline Zollinger writes for TheReportingProject.org, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is supported by generous donations from readers. Sign up for The Reporting Project newsletter here.