Even though Mullica Hill resident Erin Mahoney was 6 at the time, she can vividly remember the weekend in 1997 when her father died by suicide.
Growing up, Mahoney knew her dad was sad, the adjective she remembers her mother using. He slept a lot. He tried acupuncture and many different alternative medicines.
On a Friday in Cape Cod — at her grandparents’ beach house — her father failed to show up at Mahoney’s end-of-the-summer camp musical because he was too depressed. Her mother gathered up the family to go to the beach. Her father, who was a runner, would usually drive home from the beach and then take the run back to his family.
But on that day, he never came back.
After some time, Mahoney; her mother; and her younger sister, who was barely 2 at the time, went back home to find he had died.
“Then I walked out and shut the door behind me,” Mahoney recalled. “It wasn’t until I was older that I could understand.”
It took almost two decades — she was in her mid-20s — before Mahoney felt the full impact of her father’s death. Since 2015 she’s been fundraising for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and each year, she is determined to raise more money than the year prior.
“I just wanted to raise money because it’s something that makes me feel good about myself and like I am paying tribute to my dad while also helping people try to avoid the suicidal situations that so many of us have faced,” said Mahoney, who lived in Deptford Township prior to Mullica Hill.
“I know that in the community, two kids died last year in Mullica Hill and it’s (suicide) been a problem at Rowan [University] as well. Hearing about them, it just makes me motivated to try to help with the mental health crisis that we have.”
This year, Mahoney is taking fundraising a step farther. When brainstorming the idea for a new event to raise money — and with music being something that connected her with her father — a concert was the first thing that came to her mind, according to the 29-year-old’s website.
Mahoney is organizing and independently running an all-ages concert, Hold On Til Dawn Benefit Concert, on Sept. 5 at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware. One-hundred percent of the proceeds will benefit the AFSP. So far, there are two contracted musical acts and Mahoney plans on moving forward with two more.
The idea for the concert stems from her belief that music brings people together and can help them through dark and difficult times.
“Going to a concert and seeing your favorite artist,” Mahoney recalls, “you forget about everything at least for a little while.”
Tickets will be on sale in the spring of 2020. Mahoney is currently taking donations to pay for the concert through a GoFundMe page. She is hoping to raise at least $5,000.
To donate to her GoFundMe page, visit www.gofundme.com/f/hold-on-til-dawn-benefit-concert. More information on the concert and sponsorship opportunities can be found at www.holdontildawn.com.