OSWEGO, NY – Stride to Save Lives gets under way Saturday morning at SUNY Oswego. 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.
So far, there are 302 participants and more than $9,993 of the $20,000 goal has been raised.
Advance registration is preferred. Go to:
The event 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. It is open to anyone who would like to participate. Light food and refreshments will be available starting at 11:30 a.m.
There will be a children’s area at the family-friendly event.
SUNY Oswego graduate Jamie Leszczynski, senior account manager at ABC Creative Idea, is once again coordinating the program.
Several of her friends are pitching in to make the event a success.
“Jamie and I have been friends for a very long time,” said Shelly Sloan, a peer educator at the Lifestyle Center. “We met here at SUNY Oswego. We overlapped for one semester. I graduated in 2000 and she shortly after that. Then, later, we both found our way back.”
“I used to work at the college four years ago. Yeah, Shelly and I are both alums and worked together for a short time. I help my husband out after hours with his business (in Oswego), but I work full-time for ABC which is an advertising agency in Syracuse, Leszczynski said.
“We found our way back to Oswego. And one day, she approached me about doing a special event. I knew she had lost her brother to suicide. She said, ‘I lost my brother and want to do a walk to raise awareness and I need your support.’ I said, ‘Certainly! What do you need me to do?’” Sloan told Oswego County Today.
“I didn’t think we’d get more than 50 people and raise even $1,000 that first year,” she added. “We ended up with hundreds of walkers and raised about $10,000.”
In 2012, they had close to 300 walkers and raised more than $12,000.
“We were just blown away,” Sloan said. “Last year, there were about 375 walkers and we raised more than $17,000.”
With just a few hours until the event, Sloan said she isn’t worried about the low total.
“We get a lot funds day of. People bring in their registration and donations the day of the event. There are also raffles that day,” she explained. “We’re also slowly getting more and more sponsors.”
They are also seeing more support from sponsors year after year.
There has been an increase in donations each year, hopefully that trend will continue this year, she added.
“Our goal is to hit 600 attendees and I know we can do it, but we need everyone’s help! Leszczynski said. “The funds raised go right back into our community and we are trying to make a difference one family at a time. Personally, loosing someone to suicide is something I never thought would happen. But, I know that there are thousands of other families that have gone through this and hopefully with your support and helping me spread the word, well, maybe just maybe we can be that lifeline for someone else.”
“There has been a huge outpouring of support from members of the community,” Sloan said. “It’s not just big businesses. It’s also individuals who say they want to help and make a donation. We’re very appreciative of all the support.”
Breakfast and lunch will be available for participants.
Auxiliary Services (at SUNY Oswego) has provided a grant so they are able to provide lunch, and Dunkin’ Donuts has come through with breakfast for all the walkers, she said.
Some of the other sponsors include Greco Farms, Ontario Orchards and Eagle Beverage.
“A lot of businesses and some just regular people have stepped up to help us,” she said.
Perhaps it is due to the recent death of award-winning actor / comedian Robin Williams, but it seems more people are talking about suicide these days.
“We want people to talk about this topic openly and not place a stigmatism on it,” she said. “Those people are dealing with a great amount of pain. What can we do to help?”
There are support groups and other assistance available.
“Reach out to someone, talk to them, give them a hug. Just ask if there’s anything you can help them with. One small gesture on your part could save someone’s life,” Sloan pointed out.
“If Jamie had a goal, this would be it. She’d rather raise just $50 if she could get hundreds of people talking and sharing about the issue of suicide prevention than if she raised a million dollars with just a couple people talking,” she continued. “We are a very supportive group. We’re there for each other. I have never met anyone who worked as hard as Jamie. She’s one in a million! This event isn’t about ‘suicide,’ it’s more about sharing and celebrating life.”
The organizers usually have a cadre of 50 to 100 volunteers help facilitate the event, depending on the year.
“Most of them are students. Some do it to get class credit. Others help out because they want to and many do it for both reasons,” she said. “We couldn’t do this without their help. We are so grateful for their assistance.”
There are certain warning signs that family and friends should be aware of. Please check out this site for more information: http://www.save.org/index.cfm?page_id=705F4071-99A7-F3F5-E2A64A5A8BEAADD8
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.”