Attending the finish line of "The 437 Project" last September was the "push" we needed to do more to promote mental health awareness.
While "the 437 Project" was a huge success, raising over $120k to Helpline Center in Sioux Falls, I couldn't shake the feeling that more people could be involved with this amazing cause.
Listening to the 12 runners speak about their experience, as they ran 437 miles, relay style across the state of South Dakota (in 2 1/2 days) had me in amazement. Some of these runners had personal connections with suicide loss, but some of them didn't.
While following along (via social media) I experienced an emotional weekend that I wasn't expecting. I knew that some of the runners didn't have a personal loss to suicide (which is amazing!). I wanted them to know what this run meant to many people, that had experienced this tremendous, earth shattering loss.
I had the idea to txt Wendy, one of the runners, and asked her to send the message along to the other runners, in case they needed some encouragement to Keep Going.
This is what my message said:
" Project 437 team:
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you are doing.
With each step you take, you are helping. You are helping bring awareness to such a scary illness. Mental illness is very common, yet people don’t want to discuss it. There are so many misconceptions and stigmas associated with it.
Four years ago I lost my 64 year old dad to suicide. He was the strongest, most resilient man. He was the man that everyone in his small community called upon for support: physically, mentally and spiritually. In two short months he went from a successful business leader, to a hopeless shell of a man. Watching my Dad deteriorate so fast was an eye opening experience that mental health can really bring down the strongest. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. Mental illness can affect anyone at anytime.
He was able to speak to a few people about his struggles, but most were uncomfortable discussing it with him, making him less likely to open up to others as he continued to have such a powerful, painful struggle within his own mind.
He felt hopeless and felt like a failure. He wanted to end the pain.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy lives to bring awareness. To talk about suicide. To open up about why you are participating. You could have easily dismissed this cause and kept running in the opposite direction. But you were called to do this for a reason. You were called to make a difference.
Thank you for doing what many people are afraid to do:
“sparking the conversation.”
You are making a difference. And for that I thank you.
May you be abundantly blessed as you run across this amazing state!
Stay safe and know so many are supporting you back home….wherever that may be."
I later found out that this txt message of encouragement, was very touching to the runners. I wanted them to know that they were making such a big impact, in the lives of many.
In speaking with a few of last years runners, we knew we wanted to be a part of this years run, so we met and discussed how we could partner with them, to help spread the word about "The 437 Project", and to support others that have lost a loved one to suicide.
Kelly (one of the amazing runners) wanted to add a "memory mile" to the end of the 437 mile trek. The runners will run this mile, in silence, to honor our loved ones that have died by suicide.
This final mile will be located between Falls Park & the Levitt. We will gather, as survivors of suicide loss, to show our support to the runners, and to honor our loved ones.
If you would like to join us, please visit:
Let's join as survivors to support others, September 24th, as we journey this path we never planned on taking.
"Saying our loved ones name, keeps their memory alive."
Once the runners run this final mile, we will join them, and other supporters at the Levitt to celebrate Hope, The 437 Project & Helpline Center.
Final details of event to come.
To learn more about The 437 Project, please visit:
If you have lost a loved one to suicide, and would like to learn more about Helpline Center and the support they provide, please visit: