URI’s Be 5K Run/Walk for Suicide Prevention, Mental Health Awareness returns to Kingston Campus March 31

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Runners bolt from the start
Runners bolt from the start of a previous URI Be 5K Run/Walk for Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Awareness. URI photo by Jess Vescera

KINGSTON, R.I. — March 19, 2019 — After a short hiatus, the University of Rhode Island’s Be 5K Run/Walk for Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Awareness returns to the Kingston Campus this spring. In the past nine years, the event has raised $42,000.

The event, which has drawn hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community members from around the region, will take place Sunday, March 31, at 11 a.m. on the campus quadrangle. The 10th annual event will be a powerful and engaging program that offers support to families who have lost people to suicide and which raises money for suicide prevention and mental health awareness at URI. It has usually been held in the fall, but was postponed to the spring to give some new URI staff members a chance to prepare.

As in past years, there will be an array of informational booths and activities. The Rhode Island Department of Health will participate and several University student organizations will provide information about mental health resources on campus.

Food and refreshments will also be provided to participants, while they enjoy music from a local DJ.

The event is called the Be 5K because it urges participants and the URI community to be compassionate, loving, hopeful, aware, present, happy and themselves to build a healthier community.

“We’re so glad to be offering this important run and walk again, especially since it complements many of the University initiatives to reduce suicide and promote mental health awareness here on campus and throughout the state,” said Amy Albert, URI’s community engagement coordinator for the Center for Career and Experiential Education in University College for Academic Success. “Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, and so it is critical to come together to support those who have been affected, including those from the URI family, and to let people know that there is help.”

This year’s event will kick off Service Week, a student-organized movement on campus that will bring together student service organizations to celebrate advocacy and volunteerism and bring awareness to opportunities on- and off-campus. Although the student organizations may have various service focus areas, together they all share the same passion to engage individuals within the broad URI community.

All proceeds from the Be 5K will support the Heather Fund, a URI Foundation Fund established by Josephine and Roger Vennewald in 1996 on behalf of their daughter, Heather, after they lost her to suicide. Heather was a URI student. Her memory lives on through the Heather Fund, as it provides resources for students and works to alleviate the stigma associated with mental illness.  In the past nine years, the Be 5k walk/run has raised funds to support the URI Counseling Center, as well as events such as Fresh Check Day, a URI staple since 2016.

Fresh Check Day is a program of the Jordan Porco Foundation, which is committed to preventing suicide, promoting mental health and creating a message of hope for college students and other young adults. The foundation says that 1 in 10 college students contemplate suicide, which leaves nine, given the resources, to help the one.

“In the past, we have had between 100 and 150 participants each year,” Albert said. “This year, we are really shooting for 300 guests. The event is for such an important cause and raises a great deal of awareness about mental illness.”

Registration online is $25 for the general public, and $20 for students, military veterans, and seniors aged 55 and older. As the event approaches, there will be a $5 increase in price. The first 100 participants to register will receive a free t-shirt. Learn more about the event or sign up as a volunteer. Registration begins at 9:30 the day of the event. Upon arrival, participants are encouraged to check in, and spend some time visiting the various booths.

Those who can’t participate in the upcoming event can make out a check to the URI Foundation/Heather Fund, or by a note, designating The Heather Fund as the recipient of the gift, and providing your name, address, amount of gift, credit card number and expiration date. Please do not send credit card information via email. Donations may be sent to: The Heather Fund, c/o The URI Foundation, P.O. Box 1700, Kingston, R.I. 02881.

This story was written by Lauren Poirier, a sophomore English and Public Relations major and intern at the University’s Department of Marketing and Communications.