Parents push for anorexia awareness after son's death

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A well-known Jacksonville family is opening up about a heartbreaking experience in hopes of saving another life.

In February, First Coast News introduced you to Scott Saraga, 55, who began suffering from an eating disorder as a teenager. It was the first time he talked publicly about his very private battle.

"I began playing with food. I thought I had found this magical secret," he said at the time.

Saraga continued to limit his food intake and exercise even after the interview. His parents, Leonard and Frieda, said they noticed his health seemed to be racing downhill especially over the last month.

"I knew things weren't good, but there's always a spark of hope within everybody," Frieda said.

Leonard added, "He looked like he came from a concentration camp."

Sadly, years of malnutrition and other health complications tied to anorexia caught up with Saraga when he passed away at home on April 18.

"It is the worst thing in the world," Frieda said. "He meant the world to us."

And, Scott meant the world to the hundreds of others who attended his funeral services.

For those who do not know the Saraga family, Scott was the kind of person who made Jacksonville a better place without asking for applause or any attention.

Frieda said, "He did so much for other people, and he did it quietly."

Scott was the inspiration for his mother to launch a local chapter of Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG. Scott came out as a gay man in a very conservative city at a time when it was less acceptable to do so.

He also worked to support individuals on the First Coast living with HIV/AIDS. It's a cause Frieda, who just turned 81, continues to be involved in to this day.

"He was just a gentle man, a very gentle man," she said.

The family said it has been overwhelmed by the number of people who have sent cards, flowers and other gifts in the wake of Scott's passing.

Frieda admits she'd rather have her son back, though.

"I thought he would continue the way he was truthfully because I didn't want to think about the other," she said. "I think in my mind I knew, but I didn't want to know."

Now, Scott's parents and siblings hope the community will take to heart the disease that took him from them. They said it is the one thing he always wanted people to know.

"He wanted people to be aware that eating disorders occur in men. It's not just women," Frieda said.

A memorial scholarship is now set up in Scott's honor through PFLAG Jacksonville. You can donate or learn more here.


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