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Companion events at Fairmont State champion mental health

For the third year, Fairmont State University will host the annual Kickin’ It for Katy 5k run/walkand its companion event, Stomp Out the Stigma. The events will take place on April 27 with the goal of spreading awareness and support for suicide prevention and mental health care. 

Registration for the 5k begins at 9 a.m., and the race begins at 10 a.m. on the Fairmont State University campus. Participants note it is a timed race. Stomp Out the Stigma, which organizers have dubbed the after-party, will begin at the conclusion of the 5k. 

“This event was created so we could spread suicide awareness and come together as a community,” said Gina Dixon, one of the event coordinators. “We want people to know that it is okay not to be okay.” 

Dixon lost her granddaughter Katy to suicide in 2021 and has since actively worked to raise suicide awareness and educate the community on prevention. “So many people struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts,” Dixon said, “and they need to know they are not alone.”

New this year is a sponsorship by Monongahela Valley Association of Health Centers, a boost that has made more activities available at the event. 

“This year we are elevating the event with our gold sponsor, MVA,” Fairmont State’s Director of Student Health Chelsea Collins said. “We will have live music, a variety of food trucks and a live radio broadcast.”

While enjoying live music and good food, people will be able to learn more about suicide warning signs and how to help friends in need. 

It all comes down to community engagement, Collins said. “Through the power of music, food and media outreach, we can amplify our message and reach more people.”

Proceeds from the event go to the Kaitlynn Jade Forensic Memorial Scholarship, a fund that awards a scholarship to one Fairmont State student each year to study forensic science, which had been Katy’s major at Fairmont State.

The number of participants in the 5k run/walk has grown each year since it began in 2022. “It’s the community that has made us successful,” Dixon said. “We’re now an official nonprofit with a board of directors. And, Kickin it for Katy has become part of the Marion County Race Series.”

Over the past two years, the group has raised nearly $25,000. “We anticipate our scholarship fund being fully endowed following this year’s race,” explained Dixon. “We will award our first forensic scholarship this fall. When we reach $25,000 and endow the scholarship, one student every year will be awarded the scholarship so Katy’s legacy will live on forever.”

As the 5k wraps up, the after-party, Stomp Out the Stigma, will begin. “It’s a celebration of courage and resilience,” Collins said. “It’s a testament to the strength found in seeking help for mental health challenges. It is a pathway towards destigmatizing discussions around mental health.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), nearly half of all college students in the United States have been diagnosed with or treated for depression. 

“Our aim is to erase the shadows of shame and negativity that often shroud seeking support,” Collins said. “Together, we honor the lives lost to suicide while fostering a community of understanding, empathy and unwavering support for those navigating their mental health journeys.”

Dixon has seen an increase in the number of people who are open to seeking help for mental health setbacks. “We have more and more people who want to be involved because they are struggling or have struggled with mental illness and or suicide,” she said. “We now have as many volunteers as we do participants.”

Organizers said the two events are for everyone, not just Fairmont State students. “This is a community event to bring everyone together to raise awareness of suicide prevention and mental health,” Collins said. “We want this to be a beacon of hope where we gather not only to run, but to champion the cause.”

“This is something truly special,” Dixon said. “For the students, the community and our future leaders.” In memory of her granddaughter, she added, “Run for a life to honor hers.”

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If you or someone you know is at risk of a mental health crisis:

  • Call or text 988.
  • Call 911.
  • Fairmont State University Emergency: 304-367-4357 (HELP). 
  • Fairmont State University Student Health Services: Call 304-367-4155 during office hours. Same-day appointments are welcome and often available. 
  • Online resource for students:

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