Stepping forward 5K promotes suicide prevention

By SARA BERTSCH Managing Editor

What started out as just a walk to prevent suicide in Sioux Falls nearly four years ago expanded to become a major fundraising event in three other areas of South Dakota.

The Step Forward to Prevent Suicide Walk is a 5K/walk that raises awareness about suicide prevention and support started by the Helpline Center in Sioux Falls.

“This event gives family and friends who’ve lost loved ones to suicide a place to connect and belong, and offers hope and healing.  It’s amazing to see everyone come together to support suicide prevention,” said Taryn Sietsema, the resource development director at The Helpline Center.

The center is South Dakota’s leader in suicide prevention and response. It is the only accredited suicide prevention, intervention and after-care organization in South Dakota, Sietsema said.

The center partners with several agencies and groups in Pierre, Watertown and Brookings to hold the 5K/walk.

Last year marked the first Step Forward walk in Brookings. The Helpline Center partnered with South Dakota State University’s Lost and Found group to put on the free walk.

This year’s event, which is to be held April 11, is expected to have a large turnout, according to Kelsey Bergquist and Molly Hublou, the president and vice president of Lost and Found.

“So far it is a lot better turnout than last year, but there are a lot [of people] that aren’t registered. It often depends on the weather,” Hublou said.

No matter what the weather will be, the walk will still be held, “rain or shine,” Bergquist said.

Last year there was a total of 170 participants and the event raised about $7,000.

All of the proceeds are split between the two groups. Half will go to support the Helpline Center’s suicide support and survivor agencies and the other half will go to the Lost and Found group.

Following the walk, there will be a remembrance ceremony for anybody who would like to attend. It will include guest speaker Cindy Schmit and vocalist Jammie Storovich.

“It is for people to hear her [Schmit’s] story and it creates awareness that suicide does occur around here… gives support that there are other people in the same situation,” Bergquist said.

A majority of participants are also community members and Hublou and Bergquist find that it is a good way to bring together the Brookings Community and SDSU.

“It’s a great way to connect the two groups, SDSU students and community members,” Bergquist said.

The Step Forward to Prevent Suicide Walk is just one of several other awareness events that Lost and Found puts on.

Each year they recognize World Suicide Prevention Day, which is September 10, by placing white flags in the ground outside of The Union. Each of the flags represents a college student who has committed suicide.

The group also offers training throughout the year for students and community members who would like to participate.

“It’s important people know that suicide does happen in South Dakota. It’s an issue that everyone needs to address,” Hublou said.

During finals week, the club brings in cats and dogs to act as a stress reliever for students. It’s become a popular thing for students to do, according to Bergquist and Hublou.

The duo is pushing to get more teams involved, whether it be fraternities, sororities, a club or a team doing it in remembrance of someone.

Students and community members who want to register for the walk can go to