EATON — The Preble County community came together on Saturday, May 11, to spread a message of suicide awareness. The first ever HOPE Fair was planned by H.O.P.E. groups — groups of students in all five Preble County districts who work to spread suicide prevention training in the schools.
At the event, there were posters with various statistics and information for increasing knowledge about the issue of suicide in our county, state, and country. The students spoke to many groups (board of educations, school staff, school assemblies, Rotary, etc.) to spread awareness of suicide and efforts to increase prevention. The event opened the community’s eyes to the issue of suicide faced in the area.
The event began with short presentation about why the event was planned. Kimberly Stacey, a senior from Tri-County North, shared information about what the H.O.P.E. Groups do and why she joined this group four years ago.
John Ludy shared about his personal experience with suicide in his family, the impact on him, and how important it is for those struggling to reach out for help and for those close to someone struggling to extend help.
The event included inflatables, a dunk tank, a corn hole tournament, a “pie in the face,” carnival games, t-shirts of the event on sale, a photo booth, balloon animals, face painting, artwork on display from local schools, a raffle, door prizes, and luminaries for individuals to pay tribute to loved ones who may have died by suicide.
Adam’s Rib BBQ was on site as a food vendor and Eaton Middle School students sold concessions.
Agencies represented included Recovery and Wellness, Preble County Mental Health and Recovery Board, Samaritan Behavioral Health, and TASC to provide educational information.
According to Michelle Gebhart with Gebhart Counseling Solutions LLC, the planning of this event began in November 2018 with the H.O.P.E. groups.
“These groups have been asking to increase their efforts with suicide prevention and awareness and when given this opportunity, jumped on the chance to develop this event. The HOPE Fair was the idea of the high school students and much of the planning and efforts were done by the students in the H.O.P.E. groups across the five school districts,” Gebhart said.
“We developed a committee comprised of three students from each school’s H.O.P.E. group that met monthly to work on the event planning and then took the information back to the full H.O.P.E. groups in each district to carry out the plans. These groups are facilitated by staff from Gebhart Counseling Solutions, LLC who also helped greatly in the planning of this event.
“The H.O.P.E. group members sought donations from local businesses, presented about the event at various venues and meetings, worked with their administration within their schools for support, and planned many of the details of the event. We had a great deal of support from the community with this event and received many donations for the event overall.”
To Gebhart, hosting the HOPE Fair was important to share information and bring the community together to rally in support of suicide awareness.
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth 15-24 and third in youth 10-14. We also have had two student suicides this school year alone. Suicide rates are on the rise and it truly takes a community to come together to fight this. There are many people who have talked about not realizing the brevity of this issue and I feel that any effort we can make to increase awareness and knowledge can only have a positive impact on reducing suicide in our community,” she said.
“I loved to see the passion of the students through the planning of this event and the importance this cause had with the students involved. I appreciated the support and involvement from our school superintendents, director of the local mental health and recovery board, and our county commission office with this event. I loved that this event included everyone in the community. There were activities for all ages and representation from all areas in our county.
“I absolutely consider this year’s event a success. We had involvement and attendees from all areas of our county. Though we don’t have an exact count of attendees, I would anticipate having at least 300 attendees. The energy at the event was positive, people were engaged in the event, talking and laughing, and coming together as a community. And the students raised nearly $3,000 in donations and from activities at the event that will all be used in future suicide prevention efforts by the H.O.P.E. groups.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH