For this event, I desired to raise money to increase awareness about suicide prevention. As the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, suicide is poignantly heartbreaking and eye-opening to anyone who is affected. After hearing firsthand accounts of families who dealt with the loss of a loved one, I felt compelled to take action and make positive change. Through all of my conversations, I felt like suicide still was very much a taboo topic that was not openly discussed. However, to lower the amount of suicides in the nation, I knew that more people needed to be educated about preventative resources. Specifically, I wanted to target my hometown of Flower Mound, Texas to create an open forum to stimulate ongoing discussion about suicide prevention.
One day after casually meeting up with a friend for lunch, I began to tell her about the story behind Raise 4 a Cause. I mentioned that I yearned to partner with a suicide prevention organization for our next event. After narrating my story, I was shocked when she told me that her mother had tried to commit suicide as a teenager. However, she continued to describe how her mother was her inspiration. After seeking out help, her mother had joined the non-profit group, Touched by Suicide, in which she talked about suicide prevention and led support groups for teens and adults who were dealing with the aftermath of a loss of a loved one to suicide. Thus, miraculously and accidentally, I stumbled upon a suicide prevention organization to collaborate with. I swiftly scheduled a meeting with my friend’s mother and my brainchild, Sprint Against Suicide, became an event.
During my first meeting with Touched by Suicide, I quickly learned that every woman on the officer board had lost a loved one to suicide. The cause was something very dear to their hearts, and I became even more determined to serve as a proponent of positive change. Collaborating with another non-profit organization was a new task for us. With a new undertaking came new trials. Specifically, we faced challenges in deciding the best way to allocate funds raised from the event and in advertising for not one, but two organizations. I served as the liaison between Touched by Suicide and Raise 4 a Cause. I attended both Touched by Suicide and Raise 4 a Cause meetings, met one-on-one with Touched by Suicide’s president, LaNelia Ramette, and coordinated the advertising fronts for both organizations. Through this novel experience, I learned that effective communication was more important than ever before because both parties needed to be constantly updated about the event. Additionally, my time management skills were tested as I had to balance the meetings and advertising (flyering, social media outreach) with school and my extracurricular activities.
In addition to collaborating with another organization, I also worked with the Raise 4 a Cause team to completely revamp our online presence. I reached out personally to friends and family on social media to increase our number of followers on Facebook and Twitter. For two weeks leading up to the event, I made sure to post daily links to informative articles and support resources for suicide prevention. Rather than focusing on simply gaining participants in our run, I wanted to ensure that educational resources were being dispersed into the community. Moreover, we worked to completely redo the content and layout of our website to make it look more professional and informative. This project took several weeks, but we were able to add updated blog posts, pictures, and summaries of past events to the website. Now, the website is much more comprehensive and reflective of all facets of our organization. Furthermore, we created a streamlined volunteer application. One of our goals for this event was to expand our volunteer base to maintain volunteers from previous events and to recruit new assistants. By creating an application, we wanted to delegate specific positions that were needed within our organization (i.e. web and tech coordinator, sponsor liaison, etc.). Additionally, by having an essay and interview component included in our application, we would be able to gain new event ideas and the most committed volunteers. In this way, we would be able to maximize the efficiency and maintain the close-knit structure of our organization. Although we did not utilize the volunteer application for this event, we plan to use it for future events.
Finally, after months of planning, I drove up from Austin for event day. We set up booths for face painting for children, free breakfast foods and water, and information about Raise 4 a Cause and Touched by Suicide. We created trifold boards with statistics regarding suicide and created brochures with suicide prevention resources to hand out to attendees. Additionally, we sold t-shirts and provided free wristbands for our runners to spread the word about our cause. People of all ages and backgrounds came out to the event to learn more information, and about 40 individuals ran despite cold, misty weather. One family of seven even drove an hour and half and ran in matching shirts in memory of a loved one they lost to suicide. Conversing with families like this was truly touching, and I felt very fortunate to be part of the Raise 4 a Cause team. Overall, the event was our greatest success yet, and I felt so thankful to have the opportunity to raise awareness for such a worthy cause.
From this event in particular, I learned to obtain necessary permits and documents well in advance and to start advertising closer to the event to gain more participants. I found that the best way to recruit people for the event was through word of mouth, rather than through emails and social media. As a Raise 4 a Cause team, we definitely want to expand our events and organization in the future. We want to keep our organization high-school based to promote youth service involvement. However, we are taking strides to make the organization more professional with our volunteer application and new website.
With the profits raised from the event, we will host an educational workshop series in the Flower Mound community with informative resources and speakers who have been directly touched by suicide. We hope that through the workshops, we will educate our community directly about suicide prevention resources and stimulate engaging and ongoing discussion about the topic. I look forward to continue working with Raise 4 a Cause in the future and seeking out growth opportunities.