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Race about much more than the finish

Posted: May 30, 2012 - 11:13pm

On Saturday a race will be held with much more at stake than just the crossing of a finish line.

The second annual “Every Mile Is Worth It” fun run for suicide awareness and prevention, hosted by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Behavioral Health and Suicide Prevention Program, is also a fundraiser for the Southeast Alaska Youth Ambassadors program scheduled to launch in October.

One high school student from each Southeast community will be part of the Youth Ambassadors, who will work with their fellow students and their communities to promote positive activities and provide awareness of suicide prevention.

“I joined the 1 is 2 Many Task Force as the Youth Representative for Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska in 2010,” SEARHC Community Project Coordinator Megan Gregory said. “Being the youngest member on the task force it became clear that we needed to include more youth.”

Gregory created the Youth Ambassador Program to bridge that gap between youth and adults and give youth a role and voice for positive change in their communities.

“It is important for us to connect with our youth,” Gregory said. “To let them know we are here to support them.”

Gregory is interested in not only the prevention of suicide, but also in enhancing youth ambassador skills, developing new ones, and expanding the network of youth leaders.

Gregory presented the YAP to the task force and was hired by SEARHC in February 2011 to implement the program as the Community Project Coordinator. Through the program one high school student from each town residing in Southeast Alaska will have the opportunity to become a leader for their school.

Gregory stated the hope is to communicate more effectively with each school throughout southeast. The Youth Ambassadors will have the opportunity to be the voice for their school and community, giving them the opportunity to discuss the problems their school or community is facing, and work on ways to make it a more positive environment.

Gregory stated the task force wants to collaborate with all Southeast Alaska partners especially the Youth to endeavor in a community-based approach for suicide prevention.

“We must engage, we must listen and we must support each other,” Gregory said. “We need to talk openly about suicide. It should not be a taboo topic. We need to teach the youth that suicide is not ok, and we need to make sure each and every individual knows that there are options and suicide is not one of them.”

SEARHC is collaborating with the NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness-Juneau), Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition, Slow Food Southeast Alaska, Full Circle Farm, the Central Council of Tlingít and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA) Environmental Youth Leadership Team and Justin Powell of Inner Chi Massage Therapy to host Saturday’s event.

All proceeds from the race go towards the Youth Ambassador Program to aid the cost of flying students from rural communities to Juneau. Gregory hopes to see an Every Mile Is Worth It race being coordinated by all the Youth Ambassadors every June throughout Southeast and has secured some grant funding for the program this year through the help of Representative Cathy Munoz. Munoz helped obtain $10,000 in the state capital budget to aid travel cost.

Gregory is also stressing a balanced and healthy life-style with the inclusion of Slow Foods and Full Circle Farm to discuss local food systems and how to connect people back to the land and waters that provide our foods.

“My hope is that every school in southeast will eventually have their own community garden for the kids to learn from,” Gregory said. “And serve what they grow at their schools during lunchtime.”

While promoting health and wellness the event is also raising awareness about the environment.

Last year Gregory gave away running hats with the logo and help line number printed on them. This year 75 running hats will be given to the first entrants and 250 Chico Bags. The reusable bags have the SEARCH logo and the Juneau Community Suicide Prevention name on them, plus the words “Because Every Mile Is Worth It.” When the bag is put inside a Chico Bag the helpline number is shown. Other prizes have been donated by Juneau merchants.

The Tlingit and Haida Environmental Youth Leadership Team, who have a “partners against plastic” campaign, will be sharing their information and handing out the reusable bags as the runners come in.

Local businesses have donated over $4000 in prizes to give away after the race, including gift certificates for Wings Airways-glacier tour, Alaska Zipline Adventures, The Mount Roberts Tramway, ZEN, Chan’s Thai Kitchen, Cycle Alaska, Wings of Alaska, Temsco, The Rock Dump, Foggy Mountain Shop, Nugget Alaskan Outfitter, Sprazzo, Zephyr, The Gold Town Nickelodeon, Air Excursion, Cuts Online, Perseverance Theatre, Wild Oven, Suwanna Cafe, Decker Gallery, Rejuvenation, and Dolphin Jet Boat tours.

The race will feature pre and post sports massages from Powell because, according to Gregory, “So many of us sit at a desk for at least eight hours a day, and we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves.”

“Exercising consistently, eating healthy, taking care of our environment and giving back to our community is what I consider suicide prevention,” Gregory said. “There are so many wonderful things happening in the state of Alaska, and it would be to our benefit if we all learned how to collaborate and work together more. The community support I have received this year for this race has been phenomenal.”

More race information can be heard by listening today to 104.3 FM at 3:30 p.m. where Gregory, Christine Amor, Christopher Cairns, and Justin Powell will discuss the event with Jeff Brown.

“I think we have a lot of great things going on in this community,” Gregory said. “We just need to collaborate more.”

Race day registration starts at 9 a.m. at the Sandy Beach shelters and the run begins at 9:30. There will be a 5K maze-style course for runners and a one-mile walk. This is a Southeast Road Runners event and registration forms are available at www.southeastroadrunners.org/race-calendar.html. The entry fee is $10 for adults (preregistration) and $12 the day of the race. The fee is waived for all youth under age 18. For more information contact Megan Gregory at 463-6645 or mgregory@searhc.org.

Tléil Ayeelaxàajeekl (Don’t despair). If you are stressed out and need help, the 24/7 toll-free SEARHC Help Line, 1-877-294-0074, is available for use by any Southeast Alaska resident who might need help working through a crisis. The SEARHC Help Line is staffed by a team of master’s-degree-level mental health therapists who will listen and provide effective, compassionate and confidential care. The SEARHC Help Line is offered as a free resource to complement the care provided at SEARHC Behavioral Health clinics.

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