Four members of the Cedarcrest High School boy's cross-country team ran for a combined 160 miles over 24 hours to raise awareness for youth suicide prevention.
Seniors Cade LaTurner, Sawyer Vondra and John Meir, and junior Ian Harper, set out on their journey running a two-mile charity relay loop along the Wenatchee River in Leavenworth at noon on Monday, Aug. 17 and finished up at noon on Tuesday, Aug. 18.
The foursome had a goal of raising $2,500 for the Snoqualmie Valley Community Network, which partners with the Riverview and Snoqualmie Valley School districts to help prevent teen suicide.
The group's motivation stemmed from former teammate Bryce Hefner who lost his life in 2019.
“He was a senior when he passed away,” LaTurner said in an Aug. 20 interview with King 5’s Chris Cashman. “He was a varsity runner. I looked up to him and that’s why I have his name on my left cleat.”
The toughest part of the relay race according to Harper, was a stretch at the six-hour mark.
“It was like 102 degrees and we were only a quarter of the way through,” he said. “It felt like we were never going to get there, but we eventually did.”
The run during the dark hours of the relay was quite eventful as the boys encountered bears, raccoons and skunks along the way.
When it was all said and done, the guys far eclipsed their initial goal garnering $4,405 in donations through a GOFUNDME account.
Coach Bruce McDowell was proud of their accomplishment.
“I was pleased with their effort to come up with something that benefits others. Runners are looked upon as a little bit crazy so it was good to put that crazy to a good cause,” McDowell said. “And to do it in the memory of Bryce is very special. He was someone we lost too soon. Suicide awareness is something that is becoming increasingly prevalent and now is impacted even more with the effects of COVID. I’m certain that the money raised will be very much appreciated.”
Snoqualmie Valley Community Network Executive Director Laura Smith was overwhelmed by the donation.
“We are very humbled and very proud of these young men for their efforts to promote healthy and successful lives for kids,” Smith said. “We are honored to be the recipients of the funds they were able to raise and we will specifically be allocating them to suicide prevention efforts in the Snoqualmie Valley.”
Two of the programs aimed at doing so are How to Help a Friend and #BeKind SV.
“How to Help a Friend teaches older teens to become middle school-aged peer trainers who can recognize stress in kids, how to cope with healthy and unhealthy stress and how to tell the difference between being sad and being depressed,” Smith said. “We find that younger students pay closer attention to the message when it is being delivered from an older student than if it is being delivered by an adult.”
More than 1,500 students in the Snoqualmie Valley received the training in the 2018-19 school year.
#BeKindSV promotes a positive school climate by establishing a foundation of regular, proactive support while preventing unwanted behaviors.
"We do this through the practice of using kind behaviors to one another, recognizing when others have been kind and by celebrating kindness withing the schools," Smith said. "We also encourage school staff and parents to practice reinforcing kindness behaviors, recognize when kindness behaviors are being used, and to celebrate kindness within the schools and at home too."
On Sept. 23 from 1 to 2 p.m., the Snoqualmie Valley Community Network is holding a virtual How to Help a Friend suicide prevention training workshop for youth 13 and older.
“I feel it’s very important to do a community-based training workshop as we start into the school year as two of the three students we lost to suicide last year happened in the fall,” Smith said. “As things are kind of getting going, remote learning is hard for some students because they can’t connect with their peers the way they are used to. Peers are the first line of defense to learn about something like suicide and now with less access to their peers, the network wanted to move forward with the virtual training that is open to all teens.”