Downers Grove fundraiser offers 'call to action' on suicide prevention

 
 
Updated 6/14/2018 9:40 PM
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  • Benjamin Lee Silver, 22, of Downers Grove is the namesake of the third annual Ben's Memorial Mile Running Gala and Family Festival.

    Benjamin Lee Silver, 22, of Downers Grove is the namesake of the third annual Ben's Memorial Mile Running Gala and Family Festival. Courtesy of Silver family

A suicide prevention, mental health awareness and schizophrenia research fundraiser in its third year in Downers Grove now has its own anthem.

Called "Ben's Mile," like the event at which it will be played Saturday, the song underscores the need for everyone to do something to help prevent suicide, said Jamie Lee Silver, mother of the event's namesake, Benjamin Lee Silver.

"It's not just a pretty ballad; it is also a call to action because it says, 'There's got to be a place to fall. There must be more that we can give,'" she said about the song by Chris Ferguson. "It really is an anthem and a call for action for all of us to continue searching to see what we can do."

The Silver family began looking to advance suicide prevention after Ben took his own life in July 2015 at age 22.

His relatives and neighbors came up with a race now called Ben's Memorial Mile Running Gala and Family Festival, set for 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Downers Grove North track, 4436 Main St. Entrance to any of several competitive or fun-loving running or walking events is $20 online at bensmemorialmile.com before noon Saturday, or $30 on race night at the track. Spectator admission is free.

Ben had been an accomplished runner at Downers Grove North High School, where he also achieved in class and harbored a creative side as a poet and songwriter, his family says.

During his sophomore year at Miami University in Ohio, where he earned a full-ride scholarship as a member of the cross-country team, he began to have trouble focusing. He was diagnosed with ADHD and later, in August 2013, with schizophrenia.

That's why his family chose the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, which supports research toward a cure of schizophrenia, as one of the two benefactors of the annual mile, which so far has raised $50,000. The other is Hope For The Day, a Chicago-area nonprofit that conducts suicide prevention and mental health awareness through events, education and a Chicago coffee house called Sip of Hope.

Silver said she hopes to raise another $50,000 with this year's mile, which comes after the suicides of designer Kate Spade and chef and food journalist Anthony Bourdain.

"In the light of all that's going on in the news, and in the light of how little has still happened in schizophrenia, I really want us to be able to make a financial impact with Ben's Memorial Mile," she said.

Participants can add to their contributions by playing one of several games for which a donation is suggested, such as giant Jenga, or Hippo Chow Down, which Ben's brother Aaron Silver describes as a human version of Hungry Hungry Hippos inside a bounce house.

"It's all things that Ben just would have absolutely loved," he said. "Even all these little games are inspired by Ben."

Once the running and festivities conclude at the track, the evening continues with an after-party for $5 admission at Ballydoyle Irish Pub, 5157 Main St., Downers Grove.

Instead of only memorializing their late relative, the Silver family hopes the mile will evolve into a support for anyone touched by suicide loss.

"This event is for everybody. It's in the name of Ben Silver, but it's for everyone to get something out of," she said. "Everybody seems touched by suicide."

• If you or a loved one is in crisis, go to the nearest emergency room, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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