Each fall in Philomath City Park, people of all ages come together to participate in Lilly's Lope for Hope. Avid runners try for their best times on the 5,000-meter course while others simply enjoy a nice trot or walk on an autumn day.
The suicide awareness program named in memory of Philomath teen Lilly Stagner has expanded its reach since the first year. The fund helps pay for mental health counseling for those in need and contributes to various other programs that promote wellness.
The family’s pain of losing Lilly to suicide in 2013 will always remain. Her aunt, Paula May, has worked as the organizer of the annual event, but also through suicide prevention education.
“It’s helped me a lot personally to try to work through that grief … having the hope that doing something, being actively doing something, will help keep somebody from making the same mistake,” May said.
Lilly’s Lope for Hope was among the organizations that partnered with Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center a couple of years ago to go through what is called QPR training. QPR, which stands for “question, persuade, refer,” is a suicide prevention training program.
May has taught QPR classes at Philomath Middle School and Crescent Valley High School in Corvallis.
“It’s about an hour-and-a-half long class that teaches teachers, kids and adults how to recognize signs and symptoms of somebody contemplating suicide and what you need to do with that information,” May said. “It teaches some legitimate skills for kids on what to do with that information.”
May said QPR could be called the equivalent of CPR.
“If someone were to pass out in front of you, CPR would teach you to check their pulse, call 911 and do chest compressions,” May said. “It’s not anything that you’re expected to save this person and you’re not going to perform heart surgery, but your role is to recognize the signs of them needing help and making sure until someone gets there that has more experience and knowledge than you, you know what to do. QPR class is very similar learning signs and symptoms of someone who needs help.”
May sees a lot of value with QPR and believes it could be one of the most important educational components involved with the Lilly’s Lope for Hope Fund.
“I think what QPR does is it’s basically like instructions,” May said. “These are the steps and it kinda takes that responsibility of keeping their confidence away; it strips them of that need to keep quiet.”
Through what has been learned from Lilly’s suicide five years ago, May knows that this type of education could save lives.
“Honestly, I feel like from our own story with my niece, that she had a lot of friends that knew that she was thinking and talking about suicide and they didn’t say anything to an adult,” May said. “They want to keep that in confidence and make sure they’re not telling a secret. I can’t imagine the guilt those kids still live with and that makes me sad.”
Lilly’s Lope for Hope this past October saw a record number of participants and also featured a mental health fair with various organizations participating. A silent auction brought in more funds.
May said her initial thought on the fundraiser was to use the money to help Philomath students in need pay for counseling costs through Lilly’s Grant for Guidance. But the organization experienced a great deal of success and brought in more money than what was needed to help with only the counseling.
As a result, the suicide awareness and wellness effort expanded. Lilly’s Lope for Hope Fund became involved with the Philomath School District’s annual Inspire program to pay for guest speakers. The fund also contributes to the costs associated with Philomath Middle School’s Hero Challenge, an anti-bullying program for seventh-graders.
The fund has also helped sponsor a team for the Girls on the Run program, which teaches life skills to preteen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through lessons and running games.
“It’s for third-, fourth-, fifth-grade girls and it has some curriculum that teaches self-confidence,” May said. “It’s just a really positive thing for girls to have before they hit middle school.”
The fund earlier this academic school year also paid for the showing of a documentary entitled, “Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age.”
The Lilly’s Lope for Hope funds go beyond Philomath’s boundaries with education and counseling for youth also including students in the Corvallis School District. May said she has the goal of reaching out and talking to a couple of other schools in the region that haven’t benefited from the funding.
The Philomath Community Foundation serves as the fiscal sponsor for the Lilly’s Lope for Hope Fund while managing and providing oversight for contributions and distributions.