Hundreds of community members and students will gather in Searcy’s Spring Park tomorrow from 8 a.m. until noon to participate in the 2014 Stride to Prevent Suicide. The event will include 5K and one mile races, as well as food, children’s activities, live music and a memorial butterfly release ceremony.
The Dr. Robert E. Elliott Foundation has hosted the event annually since 2002. Executive Director Alana Pinchback said the foundation hosts Stride to Prevent Suicide as a way to not only raise funds and awareness for the foundation and suicide prevention, but also to reach out to families who have been affected.
“Throughout all the activities of the day, we try to make sure that we visit with individuals and hear their stories,” Pinchback said. “It makes it such a powerful event for us as foundation members. Three years ago we added a memorial butterfly release ceremony where family members and loved ones can release a butterfly in honor of a loved one. It has become such a special part of the day and really brings our focus back to why we’re there … Needless to say, it’s a very emotional experience.”
Pinchback said the money raised by the event goes to support the Dr. Robert E. Elliott Foundation’s programs and materials used in White County schools. These cover topics like anti-bullying, depression awareness, suicide prevention and anti-self injury.
Pinchback said the foundation also uses the funds to purchase books for and maintain a library of resources for the community and to sustain a monthly Survivors of Suicide (S.O.S.) support group, which she said is open to anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide.
Senior Shelbie Robeck said she plans to run in the 5K with a group of nine students who were with her at Harding University in Florence in the fall of 2013. Robeck said the group was touched by suicide when a fellow HUF student that semester lost her brother while they were abroad.
“We are participating in this race to bless one of our friends who went overseas with us,” Robeck said. “We want to honor his memory and encourage her, as well as try and prevent this devastating occasion in other people’s lives.”
Senior Diana Kirby is an intern for the Dr. Robert E. Elliott Foundation this semester and said she has been involved in planning and organizing the event for the past few months.
“I think it’s very unique as a 5K,” Kirby said. “It’s often a big encouragement even if people aren’t running the race; just come hang out with us for the day. People are able to meet other people and share stories. It’s more than just a 5K; it’s more than just a run. The thing that’s really cool is that, as a Harding student, it can be easy to get stuck in the bubble here and not spend as much time in the community, and this is a cool way to be aware of the community and be a part of it.”
Anyone interested in running or donating to the foundation can register online at www.elliottfoundation.com.