Pushing for Awareness

Lucas Hess | Staff Writer

All Images courtesy Lucas Hess

A silent message left behind for Dylan.
A silent message left behind for Dylan.

Suicide is one of the least discussed things in society and yet one of the most lethal. It is considered the third leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds and second for 24 to 35-year-olds in America. If you are surprised by this statistic, that is not very surprising, as most people would not want to come anywhere near a conversation about suicide or depression.

I had no clue how real this subject was until it took the life of my high school friend, Dylan Wade. When my friends and I heard the news, we were shell-shocked

A few days passed since the news broke. Jake, Kyle, and I were sitting around at Jake’s house when we all agreed that we should do a longboarding trip for Dylan. We would try to bring awareness to this dark topic. If we could reach just one person through our event, it would be worth it.

Our first trip in 2014.
Our first trip in 2014.

After a few weeks of planning, we met a woman named Linda. She has been a huge part of this event ever since Jake scheduled a meeting with her at a Caribou coffee shop to plan the first ride. Linda is an event organizer through SAVE, which stands for Suicide Awareness Voices of Education. After doing extensive research, we made the decision to partner with SAVE and raise our money for their organization.

The first year, we had 3 riders including Jake, Kyle, and myself. We had limited supplies; camelbacks with backpacks that carried about 30 pounds of snacks, equipment, and water. Jake’s grandpa met us at a few points for water and support on the first day.

We sat on a bench exhausted and overwhelmed with how difficult the first almost twenty miles had been. While sitting there, Jake showed Kyle and me a message that he’d received from someone following the trip. The person mentioned how she was suffering from depression and that she was close to suicide when she heard of our trip.

The message went on to say how she felt noticed and was glad to know that someone cared. She felt as though in doing this trip for suicide awareness and prevention, we were doing this trip directly for her. That was the most inspiring and moving moment I have ever experienced. With our newfound inspiration we made our way to the motel in Sandstone for the first night.

Our many supporters in 2014 for Push for Awareness.
Our many supporters in 2014 for Push for Awareness.

The second day was one of the hardest days of our lives. We were tired, sore, and pushing again. On highway 61 we experienced brutal winds and excessive heat. With the combination of the two, I can say without a doubt that it was the best picture of hell I can paint in my head. It felt like it would never end as the road went on in the distance like standing on a beach and looking out at the expanse of the ocean.

We all contemplated giving up that day. We backtracked to the first day remembering the girl’s message to us, thoughts of Dylan, and knew we had to continue no matter what. We stayed at a hotel in North Branch the second night.

The last day wasn’t so bad, but it was hot and by the last leg of the trip, we began to run out of water. From excitement and homesickness, we didn’t care about the lack of water.

Nearing the end, about a mile from the finish line, I got off my board and sat down. I had heat cramps and was nauseated. I told Jake and Kyle that I didn’t think I could finish. They ended up talking me into going back on to my board.

Push for Awareness longboarders 2015 pretrip.
Push for Awareness longboarders 2015 pretrip.

We rode to the finish line at Jake’s house where all of our neighbors, friends, Dylan’s family, and his close friends were waiting. It was a mixture of happiness, sadness, relief, and excitement.

The first year was a success. We had raised $3,100. We survived the August heat and reached at least one person for sure. That wasn’t enough though. We decided to make it an annual event and continue to push for awareness of suicide and depression.

The second year came, and we doubled the amount of money raised made for SAVE and our public outreach. We had ten riders and a support vehicle the whole way. Things were starting to look more professional and safety measures were being put in place to make it run as smooth as possible. There were lots of volunteers and a large support crew to aid us.

Push for Awareness longboarding into a stop.
Push for Awareness longboarding into a stop.

However, a few things changed on the trip calendar. We rode from Duluth to Hinckley instead of Sandstone, and the trip was the last weekend of June, for weather reasons.

With the third year at our feet, we had the smoothest trip yet. We had the most sponsors and support we’ve had with about the same number of riders at 13.

We realized that we were starting to build a strong foundation for this event and were gaining some wonderful partners. We agreed to grow the trip and try to bring about as much outreach as we can for 2016.

Well, here we are, on the brink of the fourth trip. This year, we are trying to do something a bit new. We are bringing awareness to college campuses throughout the year while building up to the longboarding event.

We are starting our first club here at Century College. I attend this school and want to reach out to the population here. This year, the longboarding event will take place from June 24th to June 26th. We want to grow into a twenty to thirty rider trip. If you longboard, we need you to help us push for awareness this June.

If you are interested and would like to register, visit save.org and look for the push for awareness 2016 link. Click on the link, and enter in the info.