Ben's Memorial Mile to support mental health causes in Downers Grove

In the years since Ben Silver died, an event his family started in his honor has worked to increase understanding of the mental illness he endured.

It's also promoted Ben's loves of running, music and humor, offered family fun and created a new reason for togetherness among the Downers Grove community where Ben belonged, say his relatives and friends who organize the event.

Ben's Memorial Mile is set to be back for its fourth year from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, June 15, on the track at Downers Grove North High School, 4436 Main St.

Its namesake is Benjamin Lee Silver, 22, an accomplished Downers North runner who also loved singing, songwriting and poetry. Ben died July 2, 2015, when he took his life at Ribfest in Naperville. His death came after he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2013.

Participants in the event started in Ben's memory can run or walk several themed miles, visit mental health booths, enter raffles, compete in a bags contest, listen to music and do it all to honor anyone who has suffered from mental illness, his mother Jamie Lee Silver said.

“We really want people to know it's for everyone to have fun there,” Silver said about the event, dubbed a Family Festival and Running Gala.

Admission is $25 in advance or $30 on race day for unlimited miles, including elite races for speedy runners, a costume mile, a relay race, a “Benepede” for groups running while attached to each other and races for various ages, including a little kids' 100-meter dash, a kids mile and a “Geezer Wheezer” 400-meter run for people 50 and older.

New this year, the Memorial Mile precedes an after-party from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Cadence, 5101 Mochel Drive, Downers Grove,

Silver said her family is grateful the event has grown into a fun and spirited way to remember Ben and support mental health causes.

The Memorial Mile this year will benefit the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, the National Alliance on Mental Illness' DuPage County chapter and Hope for the Day. These charities provide grants for research on mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, support groups for relatives of people with mental health conditions and a Chicago coffee bar that promotes mental health and suicide prevention.

The coffee bar in particular, called Sip of Hope and operated by Hope for the Day, is an effort Ben's family appreciates.

“I think it's just a great idea,” his mother said. “Ben's name is on the wall there.”

Ben's older brother, Aaron Silver, and the Lifson family of Downers Grove, along with a small committee of others, have planned the race since the months after Ben's death.

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Benjamin Lee Silver, 22, of Downers Grove, took his life in July 2015, which spurred his family to establish a fundraiser for mental health causes in his name. The fourth annual Ben's Memorial Mile is scheduled for 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, June 15 on the track at Ben's alma mater, Downers Grove North High School. Courtesy of Silver family
Courtesy of Ben's Memorial MileBen's Memorial Mile will involve participants circling the track June 15 at Downers Grove North High School in several themed miles during an event to raise money for mental health causes. The evening concludes with a walking mile under the lights in honor of anyone who suffers from a mental health condition.

If you go

When: Fourth annual Ben's Memorial Mile and Family Festival

Where: Downers Grove North High School track, 4436 Main St.

Who: In memory of Ben Silver, who died at age 22 in July 2015 after a three-year battle with mental illness; raises money for Hope for the Day, the National Alliance on Mental Illness DuPage and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

Cost: $25 in advance for unlimited miles; $30 on race day

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