EATON – Families are the heart of the annual Walk to Remember, Walk for Hope.
The event, held each year to raise awareness for suicide prevention, took place at Eaton’s Seven Mile Park Saturday, Sept. 24. Luminaries purchased in memory of lost loved ones were stashed along the wooded trail. These made participants feel closer to the ones they’d lost.
The Walk to Remember is a very personal 5K, and many people had emotional reasons for taking part.
Many of the volunteers and participants had loved ones who had taken their own lives.
“My son, three years ago in November, killed himself,” participant Kathy Combs said. “The following year my daughter tells me, ‘Hey, I heard about this Preble County walk thing for suicide awareness, do you want to go?’ This is our third one that we’ve gone to.”
Tim and Carol Bulach participated in honor of Carol’s brother who committed suicide “about this time, four years ago.” This is their third year participating in the walk.
“You feel like there’s a lot that could be done,” Tim Bulach said of the state of suicide awareness.
One group deeply ingrained in the program is Sandy and Steve Favorite and their family.
The Favorites’ grandson committed suicide when he was only 13 years old.
After the fact, they acquired some land and turned it into “Dylan’s Meadow” (named after their grandson), a place for them to throw parties in the name of raising money for suicide prevention.
The idea came suddenly to them and they thought they should have a party. They earned $1,300 to donate to the Mental Health and Recovery Board for suicide education.
Sandy Favorite said of the funds raised, “It went way above what we thought it was going to.”
The Favorites had many to thank for the $1,300 they raised. Special thanks were given to Jim Simon for donating $500. They also recognized Ken Hake, Jim Frizzell, John Munch & Associates, and several friends and neighbors for their contributions to the donation.
They open the meadow every June for Dylan’s party, but if someone wants to use the meadow for any reason all they have to do is call the Favorites.
In a presentation before the walk, the Favorites shared their tragic story. They talked about Dylan, how bright he was — but they also shared that he had talked about suicide before he died.
Sandy theorized, she didn’t think them knowing would have stopped him from killing himself. She admitted he had “already made up his mind and that’s what he was going to do.”
Steve Favorite shared a little history about bullying he learned from a close friend.
He asked, “Did they ever tell you how bullying works? I never knew. I have a friend from Chicago who’s a big time lawyer and when he found out what happened, he called me and he said, ‘Steve, do you understand how bullying works? Your grandson Dylan walks down the hall and the bully confronts him. Then here comes another kid who’s a friend of Dylan’s, now he can either side with Dylan and be bullied by the bully, or he can side with the bully. They side with the bully because they don’t want to take the heat. Next thing, your grandson thought all of them hated him.’”
Drug Prevention Educator for Preble County, Tracy Wheeler, also participated in the walk. She explained that she partners with Michelle Gebhart in the schools for suicide prevention programming. Drug abuse is one of the leading causes for suicide and she wants to explain to the teens “what drugs do to your brain.”
Gebhart, of Gebhart Counseling Solutions LLC., has been in the schools for the last nine years, providing suicide prevention solutions. Suicide education for freshmen is not good enough, according to Gebhart, who instead says she trains high schoolers to help out, because the kids are more likely to listen to people their own ages.
“This event is very important to our community because we provide funding to all of our Preble County schools to bring education, awareness and hopefully prevention, so that this doesn’t happen to any more of our students. I believe that the event itself makes the whole community aware. We need to make sure we keep things like this at the top of our minds,” said Preble County Mental Health and Recovery Board Executive Director Amy Raynes.
The walk used to be a 5K, but it was was modified to a memorial walk in order to be inclusive of everyone, according to organizers. They still had runners, and several people walked the full 5K, but people were allowed to stop after one lap around the track. Some 35 people preregistered, but registration also remained open the day of event.
The walk raised $3,200, including the Favorites’ donation, to benefit suicide prevention education.