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Whitefish Bay High Alumni Promote Suicide Awareness, Prevention

Laura (Kahl) Sawallish and husband, Trevor, will be walking in the Out of the Darkness Overnight for the fourth time this year. Laura's sister, Shannon (Kahl) Garlitz, took part in last year.

At this time last year, my wife, Shannon (Kahl), and I were developing blisters to promote suicide awareness. We were training for the Out of the Darkness Overnight.

The annual 18-mile overnight walk, which raises money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, made its trek through New York City last June. We were among roughly 2,000 participants who raised more than $2 million for the nonprofit.

The event truly was memorable, and I shared some of those memories in a  last June.

Shannon and I intended to take part in this year’s walk, planned for June 9-10 in San Francisco. Unfortunately, though, we are unable to go.

But, two members of our team—Team Sawallish—will continue the march to bring more notice and additional cash to the cause. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Laura (Kahl) and Trevor Sawallish of Middleton, will be taking part in their fourth consecutive Overnight.

Shannon and Laura grew up in Whitefish Bay and are alumni of . Shannon graduated in 1987 and Laura graduated in 1992.

Laura and Trevor, of Phillips, continue to collect contributions toward their personal fundraising goals. To donate to the team, click here.

SUICIDE TOUCHES THE LIVES OF MANY

The lives of Shannon and Laura were profoundly affected by suicide early on, as their mother took her own life nearly 30 years ago.

Then, eight years ago, our teenage cousin committed suicide.

So when Laura and Trevor began walking in the Overnight, their efforts prompted the rest of our family to rally around the cause of suicide prevention.

As Shannon and I have become more involved in the effort, we have been overwhelmed by the vast number of folks in the community where we live—Northfield, MN—who have been impacted by suicide. For instance, more than 50 people—many who had a loved one take his or her own life—turned out for  that Shannon spearheaded at our church last spring.

One group that has championed suicide awareness and prevention, as well as supported the survivors of suicide, is SAVE—Suicide Awareness Voices in Education. The Bloomington, MN-based nonprofit is among the leading suicide prevention and awareness organizations in the nation.

According to SAVE, 38 people took their own lives in Rice County, MN between 2005 and 2009, including six in 2009. The population of our county is a bit over 64,000, according to the 2010 census.

Two of SAVE’s national board directors live in Northfield: , licensed psychologist at the St. Olaf Counseling Center, and , organizer of the annual  bike ride that raises money and awareness for suicide prevention.

This year’s Tour de Nick is Saturday, Aug. 4. More information about the event is available on Facebook by clicking here.

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