Tooele County citizens have again shown that when it comes to raising public awareness about suicide and its prevention, they do far more than just talk about it. They lean forward, give generously in cash and time — and love to wear out a pair of walking shoes along the way.
As reported in last Tuesday’s edition, 125 people walked over 100 miles from Tooele City to Wendover in the third annual Walk to Wendover held April 26-28. Founded and organized by the Life’s Worth Living Foundation, the fundraiser also inspired even more citizens to participate in a walkathon at Stansbury High School.
According to Jon Gossett, foundation president and creator of the Walk to Wendover, participants trekked a combined 3,600 miles, and with their walking pledges, helped the foundation exceed its fundraising goal of $50,000.
The funds are used by the foundation, which began in 2014 by Gossett after the community was stunned by 20 suicides that year, to raise awareness about suicide and prevention, along with scholarship, funeral and counseling help. 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.
This year’s event marked a major change, which proved to be highly successful. During its first two years, the actual trek to Wendover was limited to foundation members and a few invited guests, while citizens participated in local walkathons to show their support and help raise funds. For 2019, however, the 100-mile walk across the desert was opened to the public.
Not surprisingly, the response was strong. Two commercial buses hired by the foundation to shuttle walkers were quickly filled. According to Gossett, there were walkers from the Wasatch Front and even Washington, D.C. who participated. He said most were walking in memory of somebody who died by suicide, while some were suicide survivors.
The big walk began at 7 a.m. that Friday, April 26 at Tooele City Hall. Walking relay style with the help of a bus, the walkers made it to Knolls via an Interstate 80 frontage road by late Friday. They were returned to Tooele City that night by bus. Saturday morning they were bused back to Knolls and then resumed the walk, arriving at Wendover that afternoon.
Saturday evening the walkers were treated to a casino night held at the Historic Wendover Airfield Officer’s Club. On Sunday afternoon, they were bused back to Tooele City, where the foundation hosted a car show in the parking lot of Liddiard Home Furnishings.
Gossett said between the related events, walking pledges and corporate sponsorships, the foundation would exceed its Walk to Wendover fundraising goal of $50,000. That amount of financial support is impressive, and shows just how valued the foundation’s presence and work has become in the community.
To all who participated in this year’s Walk to Wendover, your commitment to help increase suicide awareness and prevention will make a deep difference and give hope and help to others who may be thinking of ending their lives. May the Walk to Wendover continue to grow as a vibrant community symbol that life truly is worth living.