According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, suicide is the second leading cause of death among children, adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 24.
Children in Cass County have not been spared the devastating results of this statistic, and some members of the Lewis Cass community are fighting to raise suicide awareness and break the stigma around seeking help for mental health.
Community members are planning a memorial ride this Saturday that stretches from Logansport to Kokomo and includes a silent auction, door prizes, music and pulled pork.
Nikki Malott, project coordinator at the Youth Services Alliance and one of the main organizers of the event, said she wanted to find a way to help the family of Parker Abbott, a 14-year-old student from Lewis Cass who died in July. 13 after committing suicide.
“We wanted it to not only be a ride to help bring funds to the family to help with expenses, but also to raise awareness and end the stigma against seeking help,” Malott said. “That’s what we’re really trying to get across to kids in particular.”
Malott noted that a recent Pioneer graduate also committed suicide just a week before Abbott and said suicide is a huge issue that affects the entire community.
“It’s just heartbreaking. It’s awful that these young children are in such a dark place,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking. I have a 12-year-old and I can’t even to imagine.
She was inspired to organize the benefit ride after buying a jeep and learning about the many benefit rides in the area.
“I posted something about wanting to do something for the family, maybe a jeep ride because I noticed they do a lot of that here, and I’ve had a bunch of people who told me if I was planning one, they would be there. It’s people from all over Indiana, so it was kind of inspiring,” she said. “I decided to try to put something together.”
Malott began posting his idea on jeep’s Facebook pages to spread the word and gauge interest. In the middle of his planning, Malott found fellow community member Lewis Cass willing to help.
“Jonathan Parker, who is also a relative of Lewis Cass and who knew Parker through his children, was on one of those jeep pages,” Malott said. “He reached out to me and he wanted to be of great help. He was awesome.
Parker knows the importance of mental health and asks for help when needed. Due to his own experiences, he felt called to help Malott organize the performance.
“My family and my extended family, we’ve had to deal with mental health issues and things like that that really hit me hard,” he said. “I kind of jumped in with both feet and just tried to do what I could to help.”
One of Parker’s biggest contributions to the event is the t-shirt design. He enjoys doing design work in his spare time, so this was an area where he could use his skills. Abbott’s sister Faith provided input on the design and ultimately approved the final version.
Parker added music notes and the phrase “keep playing music” on the shirts because Abbott was a member of the Lewis Cass Marching Band and enjoyed writing and composing music.
The event will start behind Lewis Cass Jr./Sr. High school at noon on Saturday with registration for jeeps, motorbikes and any other vehicle that would like to join the ride. At approximately 1:00 p.m., runners will travel from Walton to Mike Anderson at Logansport where there will be a giveaway. Riders will then travel to Peru and visit the Grissom Air Museum before heading to Kokomo and returning to Walton.
Malott encouraged anyone interested in participating in the race to pre-register through the benefit’s Eventbrite page. The ride costs $25 per vehicle and driver, and each additional passenger costs an additional $10. A t-shirt, pulled pork dinner, and free admission to the Grissom Air Museum are included in the registration fee.
All additional t-shirts can be purchased for $15 and additional pulled pork meals will be available for $5 each for anyone who does not register. The Cass County Zero Suicide Task Force will also be speaking at the event and selling lanterns after the ride. All proceeds will be donated to Abbott’s family.
Community members who wish to attend the ride can register online at the Cass County Riding Group Facebook page.
Malott hopes the ride will be well traveled and educate other families so they don’t have to go through the experience of a child committing suicide.
“We have to do something,” she said. “These children are struggling and we are losing our children.”