On Friday, June 22, Laurie Audette, her daughter Michelle and other members of Allen's Hope gathered to provide snacks, water and cheers to those participating in the sixth annual Push for Awareness (PFA) longboarding event.
According to a spokesperson from PFA, the group was started in 2013 by Jake Bailey from Blaine, Minnesota. Bailey heard that his former classmate, Dylan Wade, died by suicide during his first year of college. So he decided that he should do something to combat the stigma attached to depression that hindered Wade from getting the help he needed. In response, Bailey created PFA, a 150-mile longboarding (which is similar to skateboarding) trip from Duluth to Blaine. That first year, with the help of his two friends, Kyle Olson and Lucas Hess, Bailey raised $3,000 for this cause.
Following the first year's success, Bailey decided to do it again. "Jake didn't stop there; the following year he recruited riders, volunteers and supporters to make it an even bigger event. Every year, the event grows while their message is plastered on social media sites for the community to see and take part in," a PFA spokesperson said. For this year's event, they had 42 longboarders, a support team of 20 plus people and were able to raise $22,414. All money from this event went to SAVE. SAVE is a non-profit Minnesota organization that is focused on providing schools, doctors and work places with depression education. They teach people how to spot the signs and help someone suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts.
Allen's Hope has been supporting Push for Awareness for two years now. This year they provided energy bars and drinks to the longboarders at their Sandstone stop. Also, they helped organize and set up the finish line event for PFA.
Allen's Hope started out as a Facebook page after the death of Laurie's son, Allen Audette. "I originally started it because I wanted people to know my son. I wanted them to know the struggle he went through and how he had lost hope,"Laurie said. "It's raising awareness for mental health. We are trying to help remove the stigma of mental health and suicide by telling my son's story because he's not here to tell it."Allen's Â Hope has now become a messenger of hope.
Like many kids, Allen was very involved in school. According to Laurie, he was very outgoing and was part of the basketball and football teams. As an electric guitar player, he had started a little band and they played in the garage. "It's hard to talk about him,"Laurie said. "He had a lot of friends at the school."
During his sophomore year of high school, Allen struggled with depression and ultimately committed suicide. Though he was able to access some mental health resources, he lost hope. Since his death, Laurie has been sharing Allen's story to encourage others suffering like him to keep reaching out for help and not give up.
"I will cry every time I talk about him, there's no stopping it. Allen is making me do this. He is making me give hope to others by sharing his story," said Laurie.
Photos by Rebecca Lange