This story originally appeared in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s 2020 Annual Report. Read more Volunteer Spotlight Stories, and watch videos of each volunteer sharing their experiences.
In May of 2014, when I was in my early 30s, I lost one of my best friends from high school to suicide. The following August, less than four months later, I lost another friend to suicide. I was kind of lost, trying to figure things out. I had always had the idea in the back of my mind that I wanted to run in the L.A. Marathon. My mom and sister had both done it, so I knew at some point I had to do it!
My roommate was running, and he told me I could do it for a charity. I saw that the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention was listed, and I had a moment of clarity. I thought, well, okay, I’m running a marathon now. I will be able to run in honor of my friends.
I had a couple of months to physically train. It was also the first time I was doing a fundraising campaign. That was challenging in itself, because it meant sharing my story with others on social media, and I wasn’t quite comfortable with that yet. But once I started letting people know why I was running, the support that came in was amazing.
Running with my friends’ pictures on my back, and crossing the finish line, was the most empowering experience I had ever been a part of. Running with our Team AFSP gear on, we got lots of positive comments like, “Thanks for what you’re doing!”
I look back on that experience as a turning point, because it was a catalyst for tremendous personal growth. I wanted to stay involved, so I went to the Campus Walk at UCLA, met some of the volunteers, and became a volunteer myself. I was asked to be the co-captain for Team AFSP in the L.A. Marathon the following year. It’s been six years now, and we just keep doing it! Each year, we have more runners and raise more money and more awareness. This past year we raised $73 thousand. Now I’m on my local AFSP chapter’s board of directors, and it all started with the marathon.