Standing together for suicide awareness: Alive&Walking gives support for awareness, prevention of suicide

One thousand one hundred pairs of shoes filled the sidewalks of the Hawkeye Community College campus Wednesday, Sept. 13. Those 1,100 shoes represent the number deaths of college students per year, due to suicide. And the students and staff of Cedar Falls High School know the number just keeps rising.

Hawkeye Community College hosted the Alive and Walking for Suicide Prevention from 12-2 p.m., formed by the Alive&Running Suicide Prevention, founded by friends, Troy Belmer and Ryan Nesbit.

At this event three women spoke about their journeys alongside the dreadful word called suicide. The first speaker, Anna Hicks, a graduate from Linn Mar High School, spoke about her teenage brother being bullied from grade school throughout middle school.

Her brother was diagnosed with depression only to lead up to an attempt. Through a timely process of love and support from their whole family, her brother was able to recover. Now he enjoys attending school and is living a healthy lifestyle.

The second speaker, Bethanie Fish, shared about her personal battle scars from her two attempts of suicide while growing up and her last attempt in college.

These dark thoughts came from all different directions, and only she knows her full story. Fish also shared her daily climbs with depression and self harm.

The third speaker, Elle Loy, preached a very personal story of all the diagnoses she had been labeled, her five attempts to end her life and how she finally realized she is meant to live.

All three of these women faced struggles head on. They walked alongside fear, pounded on the darkest walls and rose from the ground up to help bring awareness through their experiences.

Last week on Tuesday, Sept. 12, a senior, Chase Sanders, committed suicide due to bullying and other aspects of his life.

After this tragedy, a fellow student and friend of Sanders put together a last minute special memorial poster that read, “Lost but never forgotten” and taped it to the flagpole in front of the school along with pictures of Sanders and flowers, a Bible and Mountain Dew.

“I had been thinking that something needed to be done in memory of him that the whole school would see,” senior Elijah Townsend said.

Kindness rocks were made and outlined the front sidewalks leading up to the auditorium entrance, and some were left to sit with the memorial.

“He was a friend of mine, and in my heart, it felt like something I should do,” Townsend said.

This past Monday, Sept. 18, students, friends and family came together to honor Sanders. This event was held at Orchard Hill Church to provide a time of unity, love and support for the Sanders family and community.

“I thought that it was very nice and was good to see lots of different people coming out to support. I felt very sad for his family but also thankful that so many people care to create a sense of community for his family,” junior Megan Sawyer said.

Senior, Colin Klatt, says he attended this event because he says he felt that he should be there for those who needed help coping with this tough situation.

He also says he felt it was a good way for the community, students especially, to grieve the way they wanted.

“It made me feel blessed to be living in the community I do, knowing that we can come together and help each other in our time of need makes me happy. No one needs to fight this alone,” he said.

This coming together breakfast event in honor of Sanders, as well as for suicide prevention and awareness, displayed kindness rocks for the family to keep and for others to take in remembrance.

Bracelets donated by Alive&Running, were also out for students, friends and family to take as a way to spread awareness throughout the Cedar Valley.

Held in the gym, there were plenty of space to talk, pray and receive help if needed. Students also had a station to write letters to Sanders and his family, many sharing stories, memories, inspirational quotes and goodbyes.

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