by Jim Boyle

Editor

The organizers of two fundraisers have joined forces and picked up another partner with the hope of more effectively helping youth struggling with mental health issues.

They also want to prevent the types of tragic deaths they, their friends and family endured with the sudden and traumatic loss of Kesley Daulton, of Elk River, and Markus Cullinan, of Rogers.

The Forever Young Fun Run for Kelsey and the Roll for the Soul for Markus merged efforts have resulted in plans for a 5K run, walk and skateboard event on Saturday, Aug. 15, at Meadowvale Elementary School in Elk River.

In addition to the 5K, District 728 Community Education is hosting a free mental health awareness speaking engagement titled “You’re Not Alone” from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 13, at the Handke Family Center.

Topics will include: “Insights: Confronting and Challenging the Stigma of Mental Health” by John Stadler and “In Our Own Voice” by Amanda Manning and Stacy Gaffaney.

The speakers, who are from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, will address the prevalence of mental illness and achieving recovery. NAMI, as it’s widely known, advocates for children and adults who struggle with mental health issues and offers support for the families that struggle alongside their loved ones.

The educational event is free, but preregistration is required by calling 763-241-3520 or visiting www.728communityed.com.

As for the walk, run and skateboard event, registration begins at 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 15, and the walks will get underway first with a half-mile kids fun run at 10:15 a.m. The 5K run and skateboard portion of the event will start at 11 a.m. and the 5K walk will start at about 11:05 a.m.

Forever Young Fun Run, Roll for the Soul began after tragedies

The Forever Young Fun Run started three years ago, attracting 315 runners and walkers, including friends, relatives and former teammates of the Elk River and Anoka-Ramsey Community College soccer star who died of a heroin overdose on Thanksgiving in 2012. Daulton battled mental health issues most of her life and was diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder a year before her death.

The Roll for the Soul began four years ago when Justin Dedrick, a friend of Cullinan, and Justin’s mother, Jenny, ran with an idea the two high schoolers had for a barbecue and a skateboard contest in the Rogers area.

They morphed it into a fundraiser for mental health initiatives and suicide prevention after Cullinan completed suicide in April 2011. The first-time event attracted about 200 people the first year, including a skateboarder from Duluth and parents of other youth who had taken their lives.

The event has continued but never grew. Realizing skateboarders were not too enthusiastic about morning events and they had little money, it made sense to simplify the event into a walk and then broaden its reach with the joint effort.

Daulton and Cullinan knew each other and shared some of the same friends even though they went to different schools and traveled in different circles. One had a passion for soccer, and the other had a passion for skateboarding. Both liked to write.

“The events are close to one another (geographically) and have the same goal of raising mental health awareness — and preventing suicides,” Jenny Dedrick said. “The money’s nice, but it’s really all about awareness. It’s so hard to see kids losing their friends.”

Dedrick is confident the event has made a difference, recalling how one youth was inspired after learning how many people either had a mental health issue or were touched by someone who struggled with one.

Smile was cover for Rogers’ teen’s pain

Cullinan’s mental health issues were masked by his ever-present smile and his enormous base of friends.

“He had lots of friends,” his father, Ray Cullinan, said. “He didn’t want to be alone with his thoughts.”

After his death, Ray Cullinan said he had at least 10 people tell him his son was their “best friend.” One reason is he didn’t judge people by where they were on the social ladder.

He was an artist, a skateboarder and a skilled potter who astonished his teachers. He also liked to  write.

He battled depression and got help from mental health professionals, Ray Cullinan said. But it wasn’t enough.

Markus’ father disagrees with the sentiment held by some that suicide is a selfish act. He likens serious depression to a person’s worst day, multiply it by 10 and then having to endure it for a period of years.

And the kids who face it come from all walks of life, he said: those who have tons of friends, those who have none; those with wealth, and those who are poor.

“It cuts across all income levels and all social statuses,” he said, noting the challenge in moving forward is reaching kids before they conclude suicide is their only option.

“Mental health is not like breast cancer,” Ray Cullinan said. “People won’t put pretty pink bows on and parade around in pink tennis shoes.”

He knows the message is getting out, though, as he has 70-year-old farmers donating barbed wire because they want to support the cause. That helps him cope. So does his faith in God.

“I believe we’re here for a whisper of time, and we’ll be together again,” he said.

Daulton

Kelsey Daulton was a spirited girl who liked to write and had aspirations of joining the Peace Corps. She left behind a trail of writings that has led her mother, Kathy Daulton, to become an advocate for connecting individuals and families with mental health services.

“She wanted to go down the path of working with kids her age who battled mental health issues,” Kathy Daulton said. “I can help fulfill some of what she couldn’t finish.”

The effort has absorbed Kathy Daulton’s life — in a positive way. She remembers those scary days while Kesley was growing up and not knowing where to turn. She’s more aware now than ever on where individuals and families can get help, and she wants to dispel the mysteries about it.

With her daughter’s writings in mind, Kathy Daulton has branched out in her efforts to serve as a conduit between the mental health profession and the people who could use their services. She has become one of the National Association of Mental Illness’ biggest advocates. She’s a believer in the organization’s specialty classes for people “who don’t know where to start.”

The mission of the 5K event and awareness campaign is to advocate for children who struggle with mental health issues and support families that struggle alongside their loved one.

The walk will benefit two other important organizations, Kathy Daulton said: Central Minnesota Mental Health Center and Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, aka SAVE.

5K Run, Walk and skateboard:

When: Saturday, Aug. 15

Registration: Online at www.zapevent.com and at 9:30 a.m. at the event on race day.

Speaking engagement on mental health:

 When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 13 at Handke Family Center

Register: Online at www.728community ed.com or by calling 763-241-3670.

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