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Suicide awareness group lights up the night

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RONAN – Glow sticks and flashlights turned on as the sun went down and people took off for the third annual Light the Night 5K and one-mile race on Friday. 

Organized by Your Life Matters Project (YLM) volunteers, the event brings awareness to suicide prevention and serves as the group’s annual fundraiser. Proceeds allow the group to bring suicide-prevention speakers and activities to the area.

The Ronan Police Department and Ronan Volunteer Fire Department collaborated to set officials with emergency vehicles and their flashing lights up around the course to make the 80 or so participants more visible as they ran and walked around town from the high school to the park.

“We are keeping people safe,” said Chris Clary, firefighter. He stopped traffic for a group of runners crossing the street at Round Butte Road.

Hailey Schippers, a college student, joined YLM when she was in high school three years ago. During the race, she was showing participants which way to go. She said she joined the group because she knows what it feels like to have thoughts of suicide and her family and friends have been impacted by their own struggles with suicide. 

“This group is needed as much now as when it first started,” she said. “We have had more people affected by suicide lately, and this group is here to help people.”

She said YLM reaches out to families and individuals affected by suicide along with the work they do to bring awareness to prevention. 

“A lot of the people in the group know what it’s like to have someone in their family commit or attempt suicide, so we try to reach out and support other people,” she said.

The group also gives out information to anyone experiencing a mental health crisis. 

“We talk to people that are having those thoughts and share the information we have about where to find help,” she said. The group encourages people to call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-Talk. The call is confidential. 

YLM volunteer Amanda Symington dressed as a police officer during the event along with many other volunteers and participants in costume. She said the group also set up Halloween decorations in the park since the event was close to the holiday. 

She said YLM is planning on having meetings in different locations across Lake County so people in different communities can attend. 

“We want to do more community events and bring in more speakers,” she said. 

The group was started to help people deal with the serious issue of suicide, which can be difficult to talk about, and the group will continue to support people and have those tough discussions, but they also want to host events with a positive tone.

“We want to focus on positive things to help people feel better,” she said. She explained that the group wants to achieve that goal by holding more events for people to get together and planning fun activities in the schools. For more information about the group, call Symington at 406-824-2445 or find them on Facebook. The winners of the costume contest: Aryal Love took first place for the female division, and Justin Conklin took first in the male division. Madalynn Vassar, 3, was the youngest participant. The witches won for best group. 

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