The distance is daunting, but the purpose is sublime.
The local Life’s Worth Living Foundation is planning a walk on April 21-22 that will span the breadth of Tooele County — about 100 miles — from the eastern border to Wendover.
Created by foundation founder Jon Gossett, the “Walk to Wendover,” according to Gossett, “is designed to gain awareness for suicide, the foundation’s programs, and to bring resources to Wendover, while raising funds for the foundation. Wendover is often a forgotten part of Tooele County.”
Although Gossett is still working out details, the walk may begin with a rally on the county’s eastern side, followed by one in Wendover. It is presumed the walk’s route will use Interstate 80.
Since the walk was announced a few weeks ago, local support has quickly swelled. For a minimum contribution of $1, several local businesses are selling paper purple hearts to customers who can write their name, or “in memory of” on them. The signed purple hearts are then put on display.
Mile markers for $100 each are also being sold. Gossett said all funds collected will help the Life’s Worth Living Foundation pay for its education and awareness activities, which also include scholarships, funeral and counseling assistance.
Since its start in 2014, the foundation has played a pivotal role in helping to improve county residents’ awareness about suicide prevention. As part of the county’s “Coalition for Suicide Prevention,” which consists of local agencies, schools and churches, the foundation also provides community support group meetings for anyone who struggles with suicidal thoughts, or who has lost a loved one to death by suicide.
According to studies, this level of proactive help is seriously needed in the county. For example, a 2015 study by the Tooele County Health Department reports there were 20 resident deaths by suicide in the county in 2014, followed by 13 in 2015.
And over the past few weeks, new health studies, which we have reported, show that Tooele County is the fourth highest in the state for drug-poisoning related deaths and is ranked second in the state for mental health issues.
Specifically, 21.9 percent of local respondents surveyed last year, said they suffered from depression, and 17.2 percent said they have experienced seven or more days of poor mental health in a 30-day time frame. Health officials say data from those new studies show there needs to be more focus on mental health, suicide prevention and drug abuse in the county.
Gossett’s plan to walk across Tooele County is more than just a good thing — it’s needed outreach to get more of us involved to help those who are suffering and unable to help themselves. And if Wendover truly is “a forgotten part” of the county, having the walk end there is both symbolic and poignant: For those afflicted with mental illness, or struggling with suicidal thoughts, the journey is often a lonely one.
But thanks to Gossett and others who are part of the “Coalition for Suicide Prevention,” it is hoped fewer are making that journey alone. For more information about the Walk To Wendover, or to get involved, contact Gossett at lifesworthlivingfoundation.com.