KINGSTON, R.I. – October 26, 2016 – Runners, walkers and even those who didn’t participate in the University of Rhode Island’s Be 5K Race/Walk for Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention raised more than $2,000 for the Sunday, Oct. 23, event.
About 100 runners and walkers participated in the eighth annual event, which has now raised more than $42,000. All proceeds from this year’s event benefit the Heather Fund, which supports mental health and suicide prevention programs at URI’s Counseling Center.
“Thank you for being here on this beautiful fall day,” said Sarah Miller, coordinator of URI’s Feinstein Service Learning Program, at the starting line. “Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college-age students and we all can be part of making that statistic, and too many others related to suicide, change.”
Josephine and Roger Vennewald started the Heather Fund in 1996 after they lost their daughter, Heather, to suicide while she was a senior at URI. The Vennewalds sent a few remarks that were read by Miller at the event’s start.
“We are so pleased to be connected to this important and now annual event of community, compassion and commitment to make a difference for the students and entire URI family. Heather’s smile, sarcasm, laughter and love of family and friends is how we remember her. If the Heather Fund and this event reaches even one person, then it’s all worth it.”
Two years ago, a 5K run, (Marc’s Awareness and Research to Combat Suicide) MARCS Run was added to the walk, thanks to the efforts of URI alumni Robert “Bob” and Joy Abrams, who wanted to honor and memorialize their son who died by suicide and to support the community effort at URI. MARCS Fund was a sponsor of this year’s event.
Members of the URI women’s softball team were enthusiastic volunteers at the event.
“We like to get the team involved in community service events, and this was one that they all agreed on,” said assistant coach Brooke Boening. “I moved here from Texas, and I have been embraced by the URI community since I arrived. And it’s the same for the team. URI has been nothing but fully supportive of our program.”
Danielle Gariglio, a senior member of the team from Massapequa Park, N.Y, agreed with her coach.
“URI gives a lot to us, so it’s pretty cool that we get to do something in return,” Gariglio said. “It is also a great chance for us to learn about the issue and provide a positive outlook.”
South Kingstown resident Kate O’Malley, an editor in URI’S Department of Publications and Creative Services, participated with members of her family.
“This 5K is a great way to spend an hour or so on URI’s campus on a lovely fall day,” O’Malley said. “We walked in remembrance of a dear friend and appreciated the opportunity to honor him and to help raise awareness about suicide prevention. I think depression touches most families, and it’s great that people are now talking about it more. It can be such a hidden disease. Events like this help lessen the stigma and bring people together.”