COLUMBIA CITY — Suicide. It is the second leading cause of death among children and teenagers in this country. In fact, there is a recorded suicide in this country on average every 28 seconds. Those statistics continue to grow at an alarming rate each year. Many children consider suicide an escape from a variety of personal problems — even here in Whitley County.
A local group has taken on the mission of promoting suicide prevention and bullying awareness in hope of reducing the number of suicides and attempted suicides among children in Whitley County. By raising funds to help establish Safe Place locations in businesses across the county, members of the United Motorcycle Enthusiasts hope to spread awareness that there is a place to go, people who care and friends to listen. There is help for children and adults to get through tough times.
“This cause is very important to all the local clubs that make up UME. We want to do whatever we can to help save children’s lives. One child lost to suicide is one too many. And Safe Places are one way that we can offer a safe and confidential place for anyone to go to get support if they are being bullied in school or online, or think that taking their own life is a solution to a problem,” said Richard France, president of the Old Fort Motorcycle Club, one of the clubs in UME.
Currently there are 18 Safe Place locations in Whitley County. They are businesses and schools where children, or even adults, can go to talk to trained personnel.
“They will find a safe place to get away from their problems and resources to help. If kids feel afraid, threatened, bullied or are scared to go home or school, they are always welcomed at a Safe Place. People need to know that there have been child suicides here in Whitley County. They happen everywhere,” he added.
Safe Places were established in Whitley County last year. Since then, they have helped five children who have walked in to a location seeking help, and have counseled 17 children through their hotline. Participating business display a bright yellow Safe Place sign in their windows.
There are costs associated with establishing and maintaining these locations in Whitley County. Whitley County’s Old Fort and Jingoes Motorcycle Clubs are sponsoring its third annual Suicide Prevention and Bullying Awareness fundraising banquet on Sept. 28 to help offset those expenses. The event, held at Paige’s Crossing, will feature dinner, live and silent auctions, and more information about the Safe Place program. Tickets will be on sale at the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, downtown Columbia City.
“Our two biggest needs right now are businesses or individuals willing to donate $100-$1,000 as an event sponsor to help fund our Safe Places, and items that we can place in our auction to raise the money we need,” France said. “We offer several levels of sponsorships and will accept any item that a business is willing to donate to us. It is a great way to promote their business and show their support in standing up to bullying and youth suicides,” he added. Proceeds from this event go directly to the Safe Place program.
Anyone interested in being a sponsor of this year’s awareness banquet, or who has items they could donate for the auction, should contact Richard France at 260-504-6388 or Dan Cochran 260-610-1981.