Couple organizes walk to prevent suicide

Couple Works to Prevent Suicide

KALKASKA COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- Ron and Janeen Wardie lost their son Zechariah to suicide two and a half years ago.

He was 25-years-old.

The couple says Zechariah suffered from depression and now they are on a mission to prevent future suicides and raise awareness about mental health.

The Wardie's are organizing an "Out Of The Darkness Community Walk" that will take place in Traverse City on September 15th.

This will be one of almost 400 walks that are organized around the country by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Janeen Wardie says that one of the goals of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is to reduce the annual suicide rate by 20 percent by the year 2025.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 123 people die by suicide every day in the United States.

One of the messages the Wardie's hope to send to people with mental illness is that they are not alone.

"This walk is something that is a place for people to come to feel safe, to feel loved, and to tell their story if they feel comfortable with it because they're going to be with people with lived experience. They're not going to be judged," said Janeen Wardie.

The Wardie's also say that everyone needs to be working to help prevent suicide.

"It's very important that all of us are getting ourselves educated on the signs that somebody might be in crisis. And we need to be working very hard to catch them before they're in that crisis mode," said Janeen.

Janeen says it's important to remove the stigma that's associated with mental illness.

"You wouldn't tell somebody with cancer just to cheer up. And a lot of people that are dealing with depression hear that all the time, you know you've got everything going for you. You have a great life, just cheer up. Well it doesn't work that way," said Janeen.

The Wardie's also say that mental illness doesn't discriminate.

"We've learned that the face of mental illness it usually invisible. It's hidden behind a smile. It doesn't discriminate and it's very hard to find somebody and start a conversation and not have them say yes I've lost someone to suicide," said Janeen.

Ron Wardie says going to other suicide prevention walks and connecting with other parents who have lost children to suicide has been helpful.

"It's been amazing. The first walk we went to in Grand Rapids we were pretty much overwhelmed by the number of people there," said Ron.

The Wardie's hope to save lives by sharing their story with others.

"Us telling his story is what he would want us to be doing because I'm sure in my heart that he does not want a parent to go through what we've been going through the last two and a half years and we know that we're definitely doing his work."

The walk will take place at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center at 10:30 a.m. on September 15th.

People can register online at or on the day of the walk.

The Wardie's are hoping to raise $30,000.00 for the walk and say they have raised over $11,000.00 so far.

They are holding a fundraiser at "The Pelican's Nest" in Bellaire from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m on Sunday July 22nd.

The fundraiser will have live music and a silent auction.

20 percent of the proceeds will go towards the walk in September.

If you would like more information about the walk you can contact Janeen Wardie at 231-414-4424 or email her at

You can also go the walk's Facebook page

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK-(8255).

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