John Schneider's heart goes out to his Children's Miracle Network co-founder Marie Osmond on the loss of her son -- perhaps even more than she's been aware. He has a heartbreak of his own. His nephew was killed two years ago, something he hasn't talked about until now.
Although his contact with Marie has been limited to e-mails in the wake of the suicide of her 18-year-old son, Michael Blosil, in late
February, Schneider says he did recently bump into her ex-husband, Bryan Blosil, Michael's father.
"Being a dad myself, my first thought was 'Oh, my God. How is he taking it?' Not just the loss of a child, but a loss in that way -- such a tragic, tragic thing.
"This seems to be happening so much these days. How many kids, teenaged people, have
we lost through suicides in the last 356 days -- in the spotlight and not in the spotlight? Obviously, it tells us how much kids are going through now," notes Schneider, whose CMN has reportedly provided more than $3.2 billion in funding for children's hospitals, medical research
and community awareness of children's health issues since its inception in 1983.
"With teenagers, there's always something going on and it's good to remember, don't take it lightly. I tell my kids now, 'Look, if you get yourself into a place, for whatever reason, that you don't think you have anyone to talk to, you can always talk to me. Sex,
drugs, guns -- anything. You will not shock me. I am here for you, no matter what.'"
Schneider has three children -- daughters Leah and Karis, and son Chasen -- and he and his wife Elly brought their teenaged nephew Andre into their home and family around six years ago. He told us at the time that Andre "had been raised in several difficult situations, and we wanted to give him a better opportunity. He was not unloved, he was just untethered, so we stepped in, and we've got him now."
When asked how Andre is doing, Schneider is suddenly quiet. When he speaks again, he is clearly emotional.
"He went back to Tucson and got in with a bad crowd. He was a good kid, but got with the wrong people, and he died at 21. It was -- an incredible waste."
Asked about the circumstances, he replies, "His life was taken on purpose. It was two years ago." And, he adds, "My daughter still wears his ring on a chain around her neck."
Schneider hasn't spoken about Andre's passing until now, but feels it's just as well that it comes out at this point.
He stresses that he aims to stay close to his kids, all of whom are involved in show business. Chase is familiar to fans of "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," on which Schneider used to co-star, as Joe, the opportunistic whiz kid who sells schoolwork and makes fake IDs.
"I texted my son this morning," notes Schneider. "He had a big test today. 'Hey buddy -- ace that thing.'"
Chase's success is all the more noteworthy, as he's dealt with challenges related to Asperger's syndrome.
His daughters are also doing well. "They're all big now. They're a terrific bunch," he says.
Schneider has been extra busy with his professional life of late. The Spike TV special he executive produced, "Crash Test: Real
Wrecks, Real Stakes" -- showing how expert stunt drivers re-enact spectacular car crashes for court cases -- is airing Tuesday (4/27) and he has appearances coming up on "Leverage," TV Land's New "Hot in Cincinnati" (with Betty White), on the CW in his ongoing "90210" character and, soon, on his new Spike comedy series, "The Back 9."
No matter how busy he gets, however, "I want my kids to know I'm there for them, waiting to catch them if they screw up, need an arm to hit or just be there to talk."