Some people may have called it a “crazy” idea, but when it comes to raising public awareness about suicide in Tooele County, no venture — especially one straight from the heart — is too outlandish to hopefully prevent another tragic loss of life.
On Friday and Saturday, board members from the Life’s Worth Living Foundation, along with friends and volunteers, walked a combined 814 miles to help raise public awareness about suicide prevention and funds for the foundation’s programs.
For the 68 citizens who participated, it turned out to be a good, long walk for a noble cause, and the fruits of their efforts will likely touch many lives.
Called “The Walk to Wendover,” (See related story and photos on page A8), the event began at 5 a.m. Friday at Benson Gristmill with inspiring pep talks by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, Rep. Doug Sagers, Sen. Dan Thatcher, and Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne. It ended at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Historic Wendover Airfield. During daylight hours, walkers trekked around Tooele and Rush valleys, and across the Great Salt Lake Desert from Knolls to Wendover. A walk-a-thon was also held at Tooele High School’s track.
Approximately $3,000 in pledges have been received by the Life’s Worth Living Foundation, with additional donations still coming in and yet to be counted, according to foundation president and founder Jon Gossett. The money will be used to further raise local awareness about suicide and prevention, along with scholarship, funeral and counseling assistance.
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.
Since its creation by Gossett in 2014, the foundation has become a major contributor to the county’s “Coalition for Suicide Prevention,” which consists of local agencies, schools and churches. A 2015 study by the Tooele County Health Department shows such proactive, community involvement is needed. The study reports there were 20 resident deaths by suicide in the county in 2014, followed by 13 in 2015.
To all who participated in The Walk to Wendover, your commitment to help increase suicide awareness and prevention has contributed to a greater community good. And further kudos to Gossett, who woke up one night four weeks ago with the idea to hold the event and pushed forward to make it happen.
The question now is: Will Gossett press for another walk a year from now? Based on the amount of community support he and the event received, it sounds like a second annual Walk to Wendover would be a success.
But there is another reason why to make it a yearly event, perhaps said best by 18-year-old David Carreau, a Tooele High School graduate and now a Dixie State University student. He walked for a friend who died by suicide, and to give hope to others who may be thinking of ending their lives.
“Maybe if they see us walking … they might think again about suicide, because somebody cares about them,” he said.
May that heartfelt message from a young man reach those who need to hear it most, and inspire the rest of us to help make a difference.