Rockne Roll/News-Register##
Amity High School senior Ronnie Greene is a member of the Warriors’ football and dance teams. He is openly gay and accepted by his peers: “He’s like a brother to everyone on the team, and no one thinks down on him,” teammate Louden Andrews said.
Rockne Roll/News-Register## Amity High School senior Ronnie Greene is a member of the Warriors’ football and dance teams. He is openly gay and accepted by his peers: “He’s like a brother to everyone on the team, and no one thinks down on him,” teammate Louden Andrews said.
By Robert Husseman • Sports Editor • 

The Warrior who would be king

In October 2014, Amity High School student Ronnie Greene, then 16, attempted to kill himself.

It was the third time he’d tried it in his troubled and turbulent life. And for the third time, he survived.

The first time, Ronnie dug into his left wrist with a pen cap while working on the Amity-area property of his adoptive parents, Cindy and Kurt Greene. “It left scars for a little bit, but they went away,” he said.

The second time, he crafted a noose out of neckties and a long-sleeved shirt. He used it in an attempt to hang himself in his bedroom closet.

“I got as far enough to where I started blacking out, but it’s just like, I don’t know,” he said. “I couldn’t do it all the way. I was just too scared to go through with it.”

It rained hard the October day of his third and hopefully final attempt.

Ronnie was tasked with clearing blackberry bushes on his parents’ property, while they were out. And as luck would have it, he found himself locked outside without a jacket.

“I was crying, and really angry, and I was like, OK, I need to end this now,” Ronnie said. “So I snuck into a window, the bathroom window.”

Some time earlier, Ronnie had written down the combination to Kurt’s gun safe, located in the garage. He opened the safe and removed a .22-caliber handgun.

“I had never shot a gun before,” he said. “It was like, it was almost an experiment at first.

“So I grabbed a few bullets and I went out. We had a tree fort, and I went under the tree fort and laid on the ground.

“At first, I shot one shot into hay just to see if it actually worked, if I was doing this right. And it worked. Then I loaded the gun again, I cocked it.

“I kind of just laid on the ground and held it to my head. I was just thinking and, like, crying and everything.”

Eventually, he heard his little brother calling him. The family had returned home and couldn’t find him.

“I remember jumping, jolting when I heard him yell my name,” he said. “I took the gun and threw it into the bushes. I’m surprised it didn’t go off then, too.”

Attempt No. 3 thwarted.

Ronnie went on to become a starting lineman on the Amity High football team. To play on the school’s basketball and baseball teams. To win a spot on its state tournament cheer squad. And to be elected homecoming king this fall by his classmates, despite having come out to all the world as gay.

So he’s glad today that his suicide attempts all went for naught.

——

To hold a cell phone as a teenager is to wield a powerful object — the hammer of Thor, the sword of Damocles. Its benevolent and destructive powers are not limited solely to the user, or his community, but to society at large.

Unfortunately, these capabilities are heavier than some hands can bear, resulting in chipped frames, cracked screens and, sometimes, inappropriate relationships.

When Ronnie received his first phone at Christmas of 2011, he was excited. “It was an old flip phone, but, I mean, a phone’s a phone.”

A month later, he got into trouble at home and Cindy confiscated his phone as a consequence.

“She took my phone and I was, I don’t know, I didn’t really care,” Ronnie said. “But she went through it. Honestly, I was probably expecting her to go through it.”

He never learned exactly what Cindy found, but he can make an educated guess — text messages sent from someone who claimed to be 17 and living on the East Coast, a stranger he had met through a private chat site.

Ronnie realized long before that girls held no attraction for him, but boys did. And he began gradually exploring his sexual identity as he entered high school.

“I realized I had never ever checked out girls. I’d dated girls, but didn’t ever feel anything for them.”

But it was a tough way to introduce it to the family that had adopted him and his developmentally disabled big sister, adding two more children to the five they already had on their own.

Ronnie, who had been in foster care since the age of 4, never bonded that well with his new family. And his first instinct, in the face of the cell phone incident, was simply to bolt.

“My mindset was to get out of the house and just walk and not come back,” he said. “I didn’t even pack anything, so it wasn’t even like smart of me. I didn’t even really know the area too well at the time, so I ended up walking toward Mac around like midnight.”

Before he’d even made it to Whiteson, he drew the attention of a patrol deputy, who took him back home.

But he was determined to leave at that point, and eventually did late last year. A relationship he developed with junior Brittany Chaney help facilitate the move.

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Rockne Roll/News-Register##Ronnie Greene, center, reherses with the Warrior Beat dance team Wednesday, Sept. 21 at Amity High School.

At school, it became clear Ronnie was suffering from emotional turmoil. One sign was a marked change in his eating habits.

“He just was really skinny,” a classmate said. Maybe, the classmate said, “He didn’t want to eat because he was going through a mental thing where he was anorexic. He would only eat an apple a day” — not nearly enough to support his muscular 6-foot-2 frame.

“I said something to him one day about it,” the classmate said. “He’s like, ‘Well, I’m not that hungry.’”

But Ronnie developed a lifeline in Brittany, a member of Amity’s Warrior Beat dance team.

He never got his flip phone back, so Brittany gave him an older model smart phone of hers. He used it to create an Instagram account, constituting his first foray into modern social media. And he took advantage last Nov. 29 by coming out to the world.

“Hey! So I have a confession to make to everyone,” he said it his post. “I’m gonna just put it simple. IM GAY. I’ve decided it was time to let people know.

“I know there are gonna be people who understand and people who are gonna hate me. I feel like people already had an idea that I’m gay, so yeah, I am.”

A blowup at home followed in early December, Ronnie said, “so I got my stuff and I start walking.”

As he approached the end of the winding rural driveway, he arranged to meet with Brittany at Amity Elementary School and get a lift to her house.

“Once I got to the elementary school, I waited there for like five minutes, and I just broke down,” he said.

Dave and Shelly Chaney live off a gravel road outside Amity. When Ronnie showed up at their place, Shelly said, “He was in sad, sad shape. He had literally three little bags, like Christmas bags, like they were presents.”

So they took him in.

“My parents, my adoptive parents, have been my parents since I was 4,” he said. “There were good times, there were bad times.”

But he said he’s happier with the Chaneys.

“They’ve honestly been like the best parents,” he said. “Sometimes it makes me sad, because I feel like they’re doing so much stuff for me and I’m not doing enough in return.”

The Chaneys are teaching him how to drive. They are also exploring ways for him to attend beauty school, as he wants to study hair design.

In return, he helps out with the cooking, cleaning and household chores. And he respects the curfew set for him.

At the Chaneys, he has developed a particularly strong bond with Brittany. “They’re stuck together at the hip,” Shelly said.

——

As long as there has been an Amity High School, there has been an Amity High School dance and drill team.

“I have a yearbook from 1918,” said Warrior Beat coach Syndie Rider. “It’s the earliest I have, because it’s my grandfather’s.” And she said there was a team even then.

Rider herself is a Warrior Beat veteran. She captained the team before graduating with the class of 1994.

She began coaching the team the following year. She’s stuck with it ever since and enjoyed a lot of success.

The Warrior Beat finished second in the Class 3A/2A/1A state championships in both 2012 and 2013. And after the division was expanded to include 4A schools as well, Amity still managed to place ninth in this year’s state competition.

Rider said the team has two hallmarks, experience and athleticism.

Rockne Roll/News-Register##Ronnie Greene and fellow Warrior Beat member Tianna Davis share a laugh at the team's Wednesday, Oct. 21 practice in Amity.

“I have four soccer players, two cross country players, one football player and one volleyball player,” she said. “I have kids in every single sport that is happening right now. Because of doing dance, other coaches can tell that person is doing better in their sport.”

When Ronnie moved in with the Chaneys, he decided he wanted to join Brittany on the dance team. It was a pivotal time for a winter sport, as the team was starting to work on complex routines in preparation for tournament competition, but Snyder agreed to take him on.

Only the eighth boy she’s had in her 12 seasons, she said he proved to be a willing student and diligent worker. She said he even expanded his team’s repertoire by handling lifts for fellow dancers.

“Boys just dance differently,” Rider said. “They have different springs in their feet and stuff like that.”

She said that’s been the case with Ronnie, and in a good way. “He’s progressed so much just from when we started to now, it’s amazing,” she said.

Ronnie said that’s because he really enjoys it. “Dance is the funnest thing ever, the funnest sport I’ve ever played,” he said.

By the time the 2015 OSAA Dance and Drill State Championships began March 18-21 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Ronnie was a full-fledged member of the Warrior Beat. And his teammates voted him most improved honors.

Then there’s football, where Ronnie helps anchor the offensive line.

——

Four days a week this fall, Ronnie has been attending classes from 7:50 a.m. to 3:25 p.m., then devoting two hours to football practice. On two of those days, he has then been changing clothes and heading to the Amity High gym for two hours of dance practice.

Rider knows how taxing that schedule can be, as her son, 2012 Amity High grad Aubrey Bull, also combined football and dance.

“He’ll come in completely worn out, but he gives it,” she said. “They all do.”

Ronnie said he began playing three sports a year as a seventh grader — football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring. Football is the only one he’s stuck with all four years in high school, but he also made varsity in baseball before giving it up.

He calls football “my least-favorite sport.” But that hasn’t prevented him from excelling at it.

He played center for the Warriors last year. This year, he has started every game at left guard.

It’s been a trying season, with the Warriors standing at 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the West Valley League at present. But Ronnie has been one of the team’s most consistent contributors, according to head coach Joel Magill.

Magill grades his offensive linemen on a numerical system, with zero as the base level. From there, points are either added or subtracted, based on succeeding or failing with their assignments.

“Last year, he was always the top one or two on that,” the coach said.

Ronnie is muscular, but not stocky. He added 25 pounds between his junior and senior years, and that helped him with his blocking assignments on the line, without appearing to cost him any of his quickness.

“He seems to have better footwork,” Magill said, attributing that to his dance training.

“He’s very smart and very dependable,” the coach added. “He’s football smart. He knows what he’s doing.”

When Ronnie declared his sexuality in his Instagram post, he didn’t have to worry about potential repercussions in the football room. To the extent there were any, they quickly faded.

The Warriors will crack jokes among themselves about who is making unwanted advances on whom, but Ronnie is in on the jokes and they’re all in jest.

“He’s like a brother to everyone on the team, and no one thinks down on him,” said senior lineman Louden Andrews. “Everyone likes him.”

“There may be some peers who aren’t as open-minded as others, but he has the respect of his football team, I know that,” Magill said. “I hope we’re at the stage in society where … I think our kids are sometimes smarter than our adults.

“They judge someone on how they act and who they are. I think our teenagers are sometimes more mature than our adults.”

——

Rockne Roll/News-Register##Ronnie Greene and Tyler Berrier (10) prepare for the second half of Amity's home game against Sheridan on Friday, Oct. 23. The starting left guard on the Amity football team, Ronnie is, according to Warriors coach Joel Magill, one of the highest-graded linemen in the past two seasons.

The night of Sept. 25 was particularly sweet for the Amity football team.

The Warriors spent much of the first half ripping through rival Sheridan, taking a 40-0 halftime lead into the locker room.

But Ronnie wasn’t able to join his teammates there. He had been named to the homecoming court, so he had to appear at halftime alongside the various other princes and princesses. One of each would be crowned king and queen, but that would be sprung as a last-minute surprise.

The senior members of the court lined up on the track at Randolph Scoggan Field as Caitlan Dumler, Amity’s 2014 homecoming queen, prepared to present the 2015 king and queen with their headware. Ronnie looked into the grandstand and saw Dave and Shelly Chaney, who were introduced over the public address system as his parents.

Ronnie’s biological dad, Darrell Haskins of Albany, came for the doings as well, accompanied by his wife, Cynthia. They have been trying to establish a relationship with Ronnie of late.

He also spotted Kurt Greene, for whom he still feels affection.

Out of the corner of his eye, Ronnie saw Caitlan anoint Lindsay McShane as homecoming queen. The king’s identity would be revealed next.

“She put the crown on my head, and I was like, “Oh, great,” he said.

In one sense, he said, “I don’t like being known.” But in another, “It’s just like, I’m known. People know me.” And it feels good.

The king and princes escorted the queens and princesses to seats in the grandstand. Then Ronnie raced out onto the field to join the Warrior Beat for the halftime show — while still wearing his football pads and blue No. 74 uniform.

“It’s hard to dance with football pads,” Ronnie said. But he did his best.

After a typical halftime dance with the Warrior Beat, Ronnie rejoins him teammates in the locker room to catch Magill’s second-half instructions. But with the homecoming ceremony, things ran so late he barely made it down in time for the second-half rush onto the field.

Things have been looking up for him, and he thinks the move to new surroundings helped him with that, helped him finally find himself.

“It’s my senior year,” he said. “It’s pretty laid back.

“This year is going to go smoother than I would have thought, and it’s all because the Chaneys took me in. “It would make me cry if I ever disrespected them in any way, because they’re so nice.”

His sister, Shawna, is still with Kurt and Cindy. And she’s doing great there.

“She’s already on track, I feel, for a better life,” Ronnie said. And a lot of people in Amity think the same could be said for him.

Rockne Roll/News-Register##Ronnie Greene (74) performs with the Warrior Beat dance team at halftime of Amity’s homecoming game against Sheridan on Sept. 25 at Randolph Scoggan Field in Amity.

Comments

dj

What can you say - Ronnie is a very brave young man. One thing is that I hope this touches others hearts the way it did mine. I shared with my administrator and AD, as we have students struggling at this very moment with the things that this young man did. I'm glad that he is still with us, and he feels what it's like to be loved and respected for who he is.

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