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Shedding Light on a Crisis in Our Community

Suicide is a public health crisis impacting communities nationwide and is among the leading causes of death in the United States. In 2021, it was the second leading cause of death in individuals ages 10 to 14 and 20 to 34. That same year, it was as likely for someone between the ages of 10-24 to die of suicide as homicide.

These statistics should terrify us all and have moved many within our community to take action to raise awareness and shed light on the struggles that many of our residents are facing. 

In recognition of this effort, there will be several events in Mullica Hill during Suicide Awareness Week that will culminate with the Wings of Life 5k Run/1 Mile and Evening Community Event in memory of Paul Donahue, Andrew Matter and Brian Blazek on Sept. 16. 

The event will start at 9 a.m. at Ella Harris Park. Walkers will receive beads that are the symbolic suicide awareness colors to wear while they walk. All participants will receive a complimentary bracelet and t-shirt at the finish line. 

There will be a therapist on-site to assist attendees in seeking help or navigating emotions throughout the event. Therapy dogs will also be present to provide comfort, as well as representatives from leading suicide prevention and mental health organizations. Informative materials will be available to those wanting to know more about seeking help for themselves or their loved ones. 

In the evening, the community event will run from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the American Legion (Post 452), 141 N. Main St., Mullica Hill. The evening’s activities are truly representative of the community, with local businesses coming together to increase awareness of such an important cause. 

Throughout the evening there will be a DJ and a live music line-up that will include Exit 2, Camo Pants, South Jersey Mixtape and Dan Fooks. Attendees are encouraged to come ready to eat as there will be many South Jersey favorites, like Mister Softee and Reds Rolling Restaurant available for purchase. There will also be BBQ-style entrees prepared by Northern Blues BBQ, a catering business created by two local Harrison Township police officers. As a special donation, Manco & Manco’s Pizza will be delivering pizzas that will be available for free to participants. 

All proceeds for both events will go to the Paul Michael Donahue Memorial Foundation and their mission to expand suicide prevention efforts and increase awareness in our community. 

The Foundation was created in honor of the beautiful life of Paul “Paulie” Michael Donahue, a 19-year-old Mullica Hill resident and Widener University student athlete. Paulie was a proud member of Clearview Regional High School’s track and cross-country team, which led him to running both sports at Widener University after graduating high school in 2021. 

There is no better way to honor Paulie than coming together as a community and realizing his core belief, to “run for others, not yourself”. 

Our community has lost too many beautiful individuals due to suicide. All of us have a role to play in coming together to prevent more families from going through this unimaginable loss. By gathering during Suicide Awareness Week, we as a community are reminding every resident that they are not alone. 

Whether you have lost a loved one, or you or someone you know struggles with their mental health, these events during Suicide Awareness Week serve as an opportunity to shed light on a crisis many are facing in our community. 

All participants must register to attend both events on Sept. 16. Children 14 and under can attend for free but must still be registered. To learn more or sign-up, click the following link: https://runsignup.com/Race/NJ/MullicaHill/WingsofLife5K1MileWalk

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988.

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