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South Valley Journal

Tiger Squad joins with community to prevent suicide

Oct 04, 2021 02:56PM ● By Jet Burnham

The South Hills Middle School Tiger Squad had a great experience at the suicide prevention community walk despite the rain. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Campbell.)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

The South Hills Middle School Hope Squad participated in the Out of Darkness Community Walk for suicide prevention on Sept. 12 at West Jordan’s Veteran Memorial Park. The students raised $445 for the cause and invited friends, neighbors and family members to attend.

SHMS school counselor Kathy Campbell said it was an opportunity for the 32 students in Hope Squad (also called Tiger Squad) to be a part of a community event with a wider scope. Usually, the focus of their suicide prevention and anti-bullying efforts is within their school.

“It felt really cool to be able to be a part of something big that you know is making a difference,” ninth-grader Mirra Patterson said. “It’s so nice to see so many people supporting the cause, because it is such a big thing in our society today.” 

During the week leading up to the walk, Hope Squad members promoted the event every day during morning announcements along with messages of hope. They also hosted lunch time activities, inviting students to share what gives them hope and to participate in games. Students participated to earn Out of Darkness bracelets, pins and pens supplied by American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. Campbell said the bracelets were a popular item.

Despite the thunderstorms on the morning of the walk, Campbell said there was a good turnout of students and their families as well as community members.

The morning began with an honor guard ceremony featuring the West Jordan Fire Department as a tribute to first responders and members of the military in honor of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Walk participants were given different colored beads to represent their experience with suicide. Specific colors identified them as someone who had lost a family member, who had lost a child, someone who struggles personally, or as someone who was there to support their friend or loved one.

The students were touched by the personal stories shared by survivors and family members who have been affected by suicide.

“It was a really great experience,” ninth grader McKenzie Goodwin said. “My family members and some of my friends have dealt with mental illness and suicide, so it was really awesome seeing a lot of the people there, all coming together so we can all support each other.” 

There was also a resource fair, and as students walked among the booths, they discovered various local resources and organizations promoting a variety of causes and events. Campbell said students were inspired and excited. Some for them are already planning to participate in upcoming community events and fundraisers.

“It's kind of created a spirit of that outside community, that there are bigger things that we can do and we can participate in,” she said.

The students wore their Hope Squad shirts which drew the attention from some organizations who approached Campbell. She had two people offer to provide a school assembly. 

The Hope Squad will hold Hope Week in the spring and they plan to participate in the Out of Darkness Walk again next year.

“After our experience, we're definitely going to come back and make this an annual tradition,” Campbell said.  “We've already got it on our calendar for next year.”