Stride To Save Lives Set Saturday

Ryan Stack

Ryan Stack

OSWEGO, NY – There are those among us living in pain, with scars that no one can see.

They are our friends and even family members; all survivors of suicide.

When someone close to us takes their own lives, we are the ones who suffer; continually asking why? What could I have done?

One local woman has taken that anguish and channeled it into something positive.

Ryan Stack
Ryan Stack

Suicide is a national public health crisis; it can happen to anyone, as crystallized by the recent death of award-winning actor/comedian Robin Williams.

It is the second leading cause of death among 15- to 34-year-olds and the third leading cause of death for 35- to 44-year-olds.

A local organization, SAVE – Suicide Awareness Voices of Education – is planning an event in hopes of lowering those statistics and raising awareness.

Runners and walkers, including suicide survivors (those who have lost someone to suicide) and mental health advocates, will gather to raise awareness for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention as they participate in the Suicide Prevention “Stride to Save Lives.”

Proceeds raised will benefit SAVE. So far, more than $8,514 of the $20,000 goal has been raised.

Advance registration is preferred. Go to:

The event is set for September 20, at SUNY Oswego; it will take place in the quad outside the campus center as well as in the food court of the campus center.

Registration will start at 8 a.m., the run kicks off at 9:30 a.m. and the walk at 11 a.m.

The event is open to anyone who would like to participate. Light food and refreshments will be available starting at 11:30 a.m.

Local musicians will perform, including headlining act Ben Fiore Trio. Plenty of free parking is available with rest along the route.

Participants are invited to raise funds for their efforts, with each participant receiving a free T-shirt at the $50 fundraising level.

Once again, Jamie Leszcyznski is chair of the local event.

“Twelve years ago, I lost my brother (Ryan Stack) to suicide. For the past five years, I have been working with a close group of others that have lost someone to suicide to plan a community walk to raise awareness,” she said. “Last year alone, we had about 500 people participate.”

“At the time, we didn’t see any warning signs. Ryan was a very happy, outgoing person. That’s why it came to such a shock to us,” Leszczynski told Oswego County Today. “He was trying to reach out in some capacity for help. He gave away his fav guitar, said goodbye to some of his friends. Although, in the moment, no one thought anything of it.”

There are certain warning signs that family and friends should be aware of, she said.

Please check out this site for more information: http://www.save.org/index.cfm?page_id=705F4071-99A7-F3F5-E2A64A5A8BEAADD8

“Not a day goes by that we don’t think of Ryan. I am constantly reminded of him even though it’s been 12 years since he passed. This is a loss that my family may never overcome. He touched so many peoples’ lives it’s so sad that he didn’t realize how important he was to so many people and how much he would be missed,” Leszczynski said.

“I have really tried to take the loss of my brother and turn it into something positive for our community,” she continued. “Four years ago, I started a local committee for the organization Suicide Awareness Voices of Education. There are six of us and we meet on a monthly basis not only to plan an annual 5K Run/Walk but also as therapy. Each of us has been touched by suicide in some way so it’s kind of like our own support group.”

For anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide or harming themselves, Leszczynski urges them to “please call us 1-888-511-SAVE (7283) or you can reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) 24 hours a day / seven days a week; www.save.org is another amazing great resource for help too that I would strongly encourage people to visit.”

She started the committee four years as a way to try to make a difference.

“I know I can’t save everyone, but if I can help one family from having to go through what we did than it’s so worth it,” she explained. “Our committee is an open group. If anyone is interested in helping us plan our event or just wants to get involved they can email [email protected]

The most important message she hopes people take away from the September 20 event? Talk. Listen.

“If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or just need help, please, please, please talk to someone. Help is out there. Take two steps back. No one knows the pain you are personally going through – but no one will or no one can help make that pain go away – unless you talk!” she said.

If you know of someone that is having a rough day or simply not appearing like themselves, offer help, she added.

“Listen to them, pay attention to the signs. Extending a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on could mean saving someone’s life,” she said. “No one likes to talk about suicide or think it could happen to their family or loved one. I certainly never thought my brother would take his own life, but he did and by me sharing my story I just hope that people will listen.”


This year’s keynote speaker will be executive director of SAVE, Dr. Dan Reidenberg.

He has done extensive work with adolescents and adults who have serious and persistent mental illnesses or who are chemically dependent. He is a consultant to psychologists, attorneys and businesses on healthcare and legal matters, is a nationally and internationally sought after speaker and sits on numerous national expert panels for suicide prevention and mental health issues with many published articles and authored the chapter on suicide for the book Adolescent Health.

Dr. Reidenberg has developed one of only three evidence-based programs for school suicide prevention listed on the National Registry of Evidence-based Practices and Programs, several other best practice materials.

He led a team that included senior leadership from Facebook, Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Twitter, Microsoft, WordPress, Tumblr and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in developing the next generation of suicide prevention technology for the online industry.

For more information, contact event chair Leszcyznski at  [email protected]