My Original Fundraising Letter

Dear Friends,

I’ve embarked on a very personal journey, for which I’m humbly seeking your support.

On August 17, 2007 my brother Jeff ended his life – his suffering became too unbearable to endure.   Jeff was more than a big brother to me, he was one of my best friends and closest confidantes. He was the most thoughtful person I ever had the honor of knowing.  Not to mention, he made me laugh like a monkey (his words, not mine).  My family suffered an indescribable loss that day, but in my small mind, so did the rest of the world, who forever lost the chance to meet my gentle giant of a brother. It’s taking great restraint for me to not use the rest of this letter to barrage you with story after story about how rare and special Jeff was.

A little less than three years from Jeff’s death, on June 26, 2010 at sunset, I’ll set out with my family and 3000 other people who’ve been touched by depression or suicide, to walk eighteen miles over ten hours through the Boston night, as part of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s “Out of the Darkness” national fundraiser.  The money raised directly supports scientific research, education, and outreach related to depression and suicide.   To see the inspiring, brief video about the “Out of the Darkness” walk that took place in Chicago last year, click here.  This is the video that made it abundantly clear that this adventure is something I needed to do.

Here’s why: In America, every 16 minutes someone in unbearable pain dies by suicide.   And every 1 minute in America someone attempts suicide.

We’re immersed in a culture obsessed with “staying positive” and “looking on the bright side”.   Depression and suicide don’t exactly live on the sunny side of the street. If you suffer from depression or have lost someone to suicide you know painfully and intimately how hard it is to fly in the face of this societal pressure, to bravely ask those around you to “go there” emotionally with you, to listen and talk about the toughest stuff there is.  Listening, witnessing, without fixing, is often the most powerful healing gift you can offer to someone who is suffering. No matter the progress on the public dialogue about mood disorders and suicide, there STILL remains a sense of deep shame and weakness associated with both.  In part, I’m walking to break the silence and to shed the shame.

My brother’s suicide isn’t the only way that these issues touch my life.  I started grappling with depression when I was in college, and although it ebbs and flows, depression has remained a stubborn companion for the past 15 years.  As with many people who struggle with depression, people see our public personas, and might be shocked to hear confessions like mine, but inside things can be radically different.  The disparity between the public face and the private space is where the tough stuff resides.  Needless to say, this is risky and unnerving (to put it mildly) to admit in such a public way.  But I’m taking the leap because it’s in the precise spirit of this “Out of the Darkness” walk.  Stepping out and sloughing off even a little bit of the societal stigma associated with these issues might just liberate others to reveal their truths, no matter how unpretty or difficult they may be.  And in the revealing there can be healing.

This walk also represents an intentional and novel strategy to manage depression, by committing to a spiritual and physical journey that brings me outside of myself, gives my life meaning, and benefits others.  Because of a slew of chronic health issues, crazy as it may seem (I’m not hiking Everest for crying out loud!) the physical aspect of this walk scares me wildly.  Honestly, I question my ability to do it.  Yet, I’ve never been so clear about a purpose and in my pollyanna moments, I embrace this opportunity to face a laundry list of fears.

This journey is also morphing into a special and determined family affair.  My brother Kevin, his wife Rebecca, my brother Chuck, possibly my 17 year old niece Holly, and my Mom and Dad are hoping to do the walk as well.   My Mom, who had major surgery for newly diagnosed lung cancer less than 3 months ago, is currently going through chemotherapy.  She’s using the walk as incentive to rebuild and get well.  She will only be two months post-chemo at the time of the walk but she’s hoping to do as much of it as she’s able.  I’m wowed by her intention.  Not to mention, my dad will be arriving jet-lagged from an overnight, international red-eye flight the morning of the walk but still, he insists he’s going to go for it!

Here’s the part where I ask for your tremendous generosity in supporting this journey, my brother’s memory, and the invaluable mission to raise awareness and save countless lives. If you or anyone you care about has been impacted by depression or suicide, this is a rare opportunity to make a difference.  Each walker is required to raise $1000 – my ambitious goal is to raise $15,000!   To learn more about The (impressive) American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and where your money will go, click here.

To make a donation TODAY please go to my fundraising page here. I humbly ask you to make the largest donation you can.  But any donation at all will be so appreciated!  Also, PLEASE forward this note to anyone you know who may be moved by the cause.

Please click here to go to the main page of the blog that I’ve started related to this journey and these issues.  If you’re on Facebook, will you please join my group “walking 18 miles in my brother’s memory“? This is the quickest way to find out when I’ve posted something new to the blog.

Wow, you made it to the end of this really long letter.  Good work.  Clearly that shows you have stamina, so let me also invite you to join our walking team should you want to raise your own funds and walk for suicide prevention and depression awareness.

With love and huge gratitude to you for your anticipated generosity,

Kyle Elizabeth Freeman

5 Responses to “My Original Fundraising Letter”

  1. Jennifer Merck February 24, 2010 at 12:30 am #

    Now that I’ve read the full letter, I must comment again : ) and say that you are very brave. You are brave to speak about your own journey. And you are brave to undertake this physical goal as well.

    There is no question in my mind that you can do this. It will be good for your body, mind and soul. Training for the walk will help bring healing to your heart. Use the time to remember Jeff and to make sense of your own life as well.

    I ran track and cross country for Radnor (though I wasn’t very speedy!). After a 20y hiatus, I came back to running in 2004. I’ve since run 2 marathons, 4 half marathons, a couple of 10-milers a crazy 39 mile race at Disney (aptly called the Goofy). And I’m not a serious athlete. If you saw me, you’d see that. I have a friend who (very seriously) says that running is cheaper than therapy.

    Walk as if your life depended upon it. Embrace the companionship and your physical ability to train and accomplish this. You can do it!

  2. Heather Walden Holt June 22, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    Good luck with your walk! I have no doubt that it will be a huge success. I know it has been years, but I am so inspired by your letter and cause! You are a brave women and obviously come from a wonderful family. Good luck to you all! I look foward to following your journey! Now…to dontate!

    Heather Walden Holt

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. What It’s All About « Walking 18 Miles in My Brother's Memory - February 22, 2010

    […] The Letter That Explains It All   […]

  2. How To Support Someone Who’s Grieving: Hand Over Your Memory « Walking 18 Miles in My Brother's Memory - March 19, 2010

    […] The Letter That Explains It All   […]

  3. AUBREY BAER « slang fr. chaos - May 13, 2010

    […] 18 miles in her brother’s memory to raise money and awareness for suicide prevention. Please read her story here, and donate, if you […]

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