Ben's Memorial Mile to honor late Downers Grove runner
Ben Silver of Downers Grove was a lot of things during his 22 years, and one of them was a runner.
He was a teammate, captain, competitor and all-state athlete running track and cross country at Downers Grove North High School.
And he was fast. His 2-mile personal best of 9:18.91 -- a 4:39 per mile pace -- still stands as the record at his alma mater.
But injuries prevented him from running in college at Miami University of Ohio. Soon, Ben's behavior became erratic and he started experiencing mental health issues.
He took his own life last July and as his family and friends have grieved their loss, they've also been planning for an uplifting event -- a race -- to carry on his memory.
His mother, Jamie Silver, said organizers are encouraging racers to register by May 15 for the first Ben's Memorial Mile, scheduled for 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, June 11, around the track at Downers Grove North, 4436 Main St.
Milers can register for an elite mile (for men who can finish faster than 5:30 or women faster than 6:30), an open mile, a walking mile, a costumed mile, a kids' half-mile or a little kids' 100-yard dash.
"Ben really, really loved kids, and he would really be happy if there were kids at his Ben's Memorial Mile," his mother said.
Registration is $20 for each adult race and $10 for each kids race, with proceeds benefiting the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.
"We're looking to raise money to basically find a cure for schizophrenia and bring the community together in a fun way," Silver said. "We can honor his life and honor everyone's friendships by coming together again."
Ben was diagnosed with schizophrenia in August 2013 and his mother says it was difficult to find appropriate treatment for the "often misunderstood" disorder.
But remembering Ben's enthusiastic and empathetic personality has proved rewarding, as many in Downers Grove have come together to plan the race. A pizza shop, a printing business, a dentist who coordinates an annual festival and the organizers of the Bonfield Express 5K race each Thanksgiving all have pitched in with planning efforts.
"It's just a really beautiful community event that's coming together," Silver said.
Concessions will be available to refuel after circling the track. Each mile race will be chip-timed. Adding to the festival atmosphere, groups such as NAMI DuPage will have booths with mental health information and a video booth will allow participants to record their stories about Ben -- whether they knew him well, raced against him once, or simply read about his life.
For details about sponsoring or collaborating with the race, contact Silver at (630) 926-3001.
• If you or a loved one are in crisis, visit the nearest emergency room or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.