On Saturday, Oct. 14, Lilly’s Lope for Hope, an annual fundraiser, will take place. This year’s 5K run and 1K walk will occur just shy of four years after Lilly Stagner, a Philomath High School freshman, committed suicide at the age of 14.
Organized by Paula May, aunt of Stagner, all proceeds will be donated to Lilly’s Grant for Guidance. Funds are used to further suicide education and counseling assistance for children within the Philomath School District.
The shock of Stagner’s suicide opened May’s eyes to a need in the community which led to the creation of the Lope fund.
“After she died,” May said, "I decided what I saw as one of the biggest problems was when someone needed to get into counseling to see somebody there were a lot of hoops, and the wait time could be up to six months out.”
“What I had initially wanted was the money to go towards counseling needs so that someone could get in right away, no matter the cost or whether they were in an insurance group,” she said.
But after the first year, May found that the bulk of the grant money was not being used. She then decided to partner with the middle and high schools.
“Each year Philomath has Inspired Day, which is devoted to giving a message of hope or story of overcoming odds for the kids,” said May. “There is a speaker that comes and we have paid for the speaker over the past two years with the Lope money.”
After Stagner's death, May also realized that children don’t always know how to tell adults about a friend they think is at risk of suicide.
“None of us adults knew about it,” May said. ”But after the fact, we found out that she had been telling friends about it."
The topic of suicide is hard to discuss, but May believes the discussion is necessary in order to prevent more suicides. She has dedicated much of her time getting involved in prevention education and overseeing Lilly’s Grant for Guidance.
Over the past two years, Lope money has also contributed to the middle school’s HERO Challenge. The challenge confronts issues of bullying in schools. Students learn to prevent and overcome bullying, to build and enhance personal skills, and to create friendships and alliances to help prevent bullying.
Most recently, May and the Lope fund have collaborated with Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis. Good Samaritan will pay for up to 500 people in the community to take suicide prevention classes called QPR, an acronym that stands for question, persuade, refer. QPR courses are built from evidence-based, peer-reviewed studies and qualify for continuing education credits.
May hopes students in the community will attend QPR classes to gain prevention knowledge and the confidence to tell an adult if they know of an at-risk peer.
This year’s Lope fundraiser will begin 10 a.m. at the Philomath City Park. Pets are welcome on a leash. Parking is available in the middle and high school parking lots. Figaro's Pizza in Philomath will provide free pizza after the day’s activities.
The event will feature a silent auction. Bidding will open at 9:30 a.m. and close at noon. Items donated came from various businesses and private residents. Donations include quilts, hair care products, massage certificates, a Yeti cooler, dinner certificates, photography packages, and artwork.
Several pieces of artwork were created by Stagner’s friends, many of which shared her love for art. Participants in the run will receive a T-shirt with Lilly's artwork on it.
As part of the event’s tradition, there will be a balloon ceremony where people can write messages to those they’ve lost and send them up.
“At the funeral we did that,” said May, “ And we’ve wanted to re-create that every year.”