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Friday, May 6, 2016

Walking for awareness, prevention

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Vicki Heckroth
When Vicki Heckroth lost her son Matt to suicide nearly 12 years ago, she did not have a support group to attend. Neither did Sara Williams, who lost her fiancÚ earlier the same year.

Now, the two women are active with the support group they refer to as GLASS, which stands for Gaining Life After Surviving Suicide.

In years past, the group has participated in Out of the Darkness walks sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and, last year, hosted a fun run to raise funds and awareness for their cause.

"With the Out of the Darkness Walk, we had to send them the money and then write them requesting funds," Heckroth explained. "They gave us 70 percent of the funds, but only for what they approved. We wanted 100 percent for the causes we want to fund. Also, AFSP started in Storm Lake and we didn't want to compete."

So now GLASS is gearing up for a suicide prevention walk from 1 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Clay County Fairgrounds.

The cost is $10 per individual or $50 for groups of up to seven people. Free-will donations will also be accepted.

The structure for the event is casual and individuals are free to join and leave the event as they please.

"We have a lot of things planned: snacks, games, fellowship and a memory table," Heckroth said.

Games will include ladder golf, a bean bag toss and horse shoes. When participants need a break from walking or playing, water and watermelon will be available.

Individuals who have lost loved ones to suicide are encouraged to add items to the memory table.

"People can bring pictures or anything they want to publicly display," Heckroth said. "I think it makes it more real if people see the pictures and mementos."

Proceeds from the event will be split evenly between GLASS and a new group called Be Buddies -- Not Bullies.

Be Buddies -- Not Bullies is a group seeking to support those who have been bullied and will use the funds raised to promote their group and add new members to their ranks, Heckroth said.

"Our plans are to give the money to schools and churches to help these kids," Heckroth said.

GLASS representatives will be visiting Spencer and Clay Central-Everly schools in November to talk to students about suicide, a welcome change for Heckroth.

"When Matthew died, we couldn't talk about it in school," Heckroth said.

She believes the community as a whole has become more supportive of GLASS and their mission, recently evidenced by the response to their Flagfest parade entry.

"A lot of us were in tears by the time we got back to the fairgrounds because of the positive response we got," Heckroth said. "Spencer showed huge support, a lot more than we expected."

She is grateful for the support as she is continually reminded that others need the support of groups like GLASS.

"My phone rings two or three times a month," she said of calls from people who have lost loved ones or are dealing with suicidal thoughts or depression themselves. "I wish there were services like GLASS around when I lost Matt. Suicide is a very hard death because there's no reason. Guilt alone wears you down to nothing."

Heckroth believes the formation of GLASS helps her cope with her son's death in more ways than one.

"It gives Matt's death a meaning," she said. "He didn't die for nothing. Now I'm able to help other people who are going through the same thing."

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