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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

URI bolstering efforts to promote mental health, suicide prevention

Events set for Kingston Campus Quadrangle Oct. 19, 23

Students prepare for last year's Be 5K Race/Walk for Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention on URI's Kingston Campus. This year's event will be held Sunday, Oct. 23 at 10 a.m. on the Quadrangle. URI photo by Michael Salerno Photography. 

The University of Rhode Island Feinstein Center for Service Learning will again hold its Be 5K Race/Walk for Mental Health Awareness & Suicide Prevention Oct. 23.

Entering its eighth year, the event has drawn students and parents, faculty, staff University leaders, alumni and local residents to the Kingston Campus for a day of physical activity, reflection and support for the campus community and for those affected by suicide.

And this year, the URI Feinstein Center is teaming up with the URI Counseling Center and Heather Fund, Dean of Students Office, Psychological Consultation Center and the Department of Athletics to offer Fresh Check Day Wednesday, Oct. 19, from 1 to 4 p.m. The free event for students will be held on the Quadrangle, but will move to the Memorial Union Ballroom if it rains.

The Be 5K Race/Walk on Sunday, Oct. 23, begins at 10 a.m. on the Quad. For the second year, 100 percent of the proceeds from the event will benefit the URI Heather Fund. Over the past seven years, the URI event has raised about $40,000.

“We are excited to bring Fresh Check Day to URI,” said Sarah Miller, coordinator of URI’s Feinstein Center for Service Learning. “The event includes free food and great prizes, including a flat screen TV, for students who participate in the multiple peer- and staff-led interactive booths aimed at educating students about mental health, providing tools for taking care of oneself, and resources on how to help others.

“One major goal of the event is to help remove the stigma around mental health and provide an open space for students to learn and support each other,” Miller said. “This event was made possible by The Heather Fund and the resources raised through the Be 5K.”

Fresh Check Day is a program of the Jordan Porco Foundation, which is committed to preventing suicide, promoting mental health and creating a message of hope for college students and other young adults. The foundation says that 1 in 10 college students contemplate suicide, which leaves nine, given the resources, to help the one.

Families have always played a role in the race/walk event at URI, two with direct ties to the University having become heavily involved.

Josephine and Roger Vennewald started the Heather Fund in 1996 after they lost their daughter, Heather, to suicide while she was a senior at URI. Donations made to the fund support services and programs in the prevention and treatment of depression and suicide run by the URI Counseling Center.

Two years ago, a 5K run, (Marc’s Awareness and Research to Combat Suicide) MARCS Run was added to the walk, thanks to the efforts of URI alumni Robert “Bob” and Joy Abrams, who wanted to honor and memorialize their son who died by suicide and to support the community effort at URI. MARCS Fund is again a sponsor of the event this year.

Those interested in the Oct. 23 run/walk may register at The event asks participants to consider pledging to “Be Compassionate,” “Be Kind,” “Be Involved,” “Be Aware” to prevent suicide. Through Oct. 19, registration is $15. The day of the event, registration opens at 8:30 and is $20. The first 200 participants receive a T-shirt.

Those who can’t participate on Oct. 23 but would like to donate, can make out a check to the URI Foundation/Heather Fund and send to PO Box 1700, Kingston, RI 02881. Secure online donations to The Heather Fund can be made at