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Gone But Not Forgotten

Written by ryan. Posted in Uncategorized

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Published on September 16, 2010 with No Comments

By Carl Kurek

On March 23, Zachary Woodard, a 19-year-old freshman at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, was found dead after committing suicide in the university’s dormitories.
At Zachary’s funeral, his mother, Michelle Woodard, said she had a new crusade in life – being an advocate for suicide prevention.
Less than six months after the death of her only child, Woodard is ready to begin that journey.


It’s been an emotional roller coaster, but making it through the day is getting easier” Woodard, who lives in Lake Station, said. “I say now that I have ‘rough days’ instead of ‘bad days.’”
There are three walks taking place in Zachary’s memory this month. The first took place at Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve in Chesterton on Sept. 12. The other two walks will take place on Sept. 25, one in Chicago and one in Munster.
Our team name is Zach’s Pack and we got team T-shirts made with his picture on them,” Woodard said. “It was a very emotional time when I opened the box and saw his face on those shirts.”
Zach’s Pack ended up raising $3,760 to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and about 60 people participated in the Out of the Darkness walk as a part of the pack.
Out of the Darkness Community Walks are 3-5 mile walks that take place in over 200 communities across the country. Many people join the walks to honor a love one while raising awareness for suicide prevention at the same time.
In all, some 241 people participated in the walk – at least that is how many registered although there appeared to be more – and $11,422 was raised, with all proceeds benefiting the AFSP.
Woodard was also asked to speak at a local church the day before the Chesterton walk, but after careful deliberation, she declined the opportunity.
I was grateful for the opportunity, but it’s just too soon,” Woodard said. “When I do speak, I want it to be effective and not be standing up there upset and crying the entire time.”
Woodard is also in the process of starting up the Zach Gives Back Scholarship Fund, which she said has given her a new purpose in life. Her goal is to award $1,000 scholarships to students.
Woodard said that before losing her son, she had never heard that suicide was the second leading cause of death in college students despite being very involved in everything her son did.
Parents need to be more informed. I was in the dark and I think a lot of parents are in the dark as well,” Woodard said, adding that she does not want anyone else to have to go through her same ordeal.
She added that often times the stigma surrounding suicide is such that people keep to themselves and do not seek help or even talk to anyone about it, but she assures them that there is always someone who cares and is willing to listen.
Ultimately, Woodard hopes to help spread this message and continue to raise awareness about suicide in memory of her son’s life.
I won’t be making any new memories with Zachary,” she said. “But I will be making new memories for Zachary.”
It is crucial to keep in mind that Michelle Woodard is only one of countless individuals affected in some way by suicide.
According to the AFSP, a person dies by suicide every 16 minutes in the United States. Over 32,000 people die by suicide every year, leaving behind devastated family and friends.
They also say that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States among adults ages 18-65, the third leading cause of death among teens and young adults, and individuals ages 65 and older account for 16 percent of all suicides.
The AFSP is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy. The group also strives to reach out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.
The week of Sept. 5-11 was National Suicide Prevention Week, but September has been dubbed National Suicide Prevention Month. For more information, call 888-333-AFSP (2377), visit www.afsp.org, or visit www.outofthedarkness.org.

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