• John McGary, Woodford Sun Editor

Brothers’ Run attracts 500-plus to Big Spring Park

The race at Big Spring Park Saturday, Sept. 7, was named for two brothers who weren’t there – but in their honor, more than 500 others were. In May 2015, Angela Wiese’s son Mason Gilbert committed suicide at the age of 19. In April 2017, a little less than two years later, her other son, Ethan Gilbert, 18, did the same. Saturday, Wiese and her daughter, Erin, 10, took part in the inaugural Brothers’ Run 3K race at Big Spring Park, which was preceded by a 1K fun run for kids. Both events began and ended in the park, and the as-yet untallied funds raised by the race, according to Wiese and sister Erin Hawley, will be dedicated to local suicide prevention and awareness and other mental health efforts. “It was just an amazing experience altogether,” said Wiese, who took part in the 3K. “Working and running the race was such a rewarding and healing experience.” The day before the race, Wiese and Hawley sat down with the Sun to discuss what they were doing – and how it came about. “Mason … just totally caught us off guard,” Wiese said of her Navy reservist son. “He was away for his military training and when he came home, we were glad to see him, and we were celebrating that he was home and he died when he was on leave. So he was here.” Asked whether Ethan’s suicide was related to his brother’s, Wiese said, “I tend to think that it was. I’m sure there (was) just grief and …” Hawley added, “Statistically, Ethan was at a higher risk for suicide because of the exposure to his brother’s death by suicide.” Such things were among the terrible truths learned after almost unimaginable tragedies. Asked how someone can recover from such things, Wiese replied, “A lot of work. A lot of counseling. A lot of support. Just attending support groups, and Mason was in the military, so we had access to TAPS (the Department of Defense’s Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) and we learned a lot of things, from attending TAPS events.” “To me, that’s where the light bulb really went off for us,” Hawley said. “That suicide grief is very different than any other type of grief, and they’ve given us those tools to really help us cope and to help our children cope … just having that awareness has really been the turning point has really been, I think, the turning point for our family.” Wiese said her daughter, Erin, is “good.” “Like I said, it’s just been a process, and we talk about everything very openly. We have open conversations, so we do things pertaining to the boys. We celebrate their birthdays. We talk about them every day …” Wiese said. Hawley said schools in Lexington and Woodford County have begun to use state dollars to teach students about suicide and mental health. The nonprofit group they formed will use the race funds to supplement those efforts, they said. “So the state offers the initial funding to start the program, so we want to reach out to them to say, for the sustainability, ‘What can we do to help support these programs?’” Hawley said. “We want this program in all of the schools. So that’s going to be the goal, is to encourage other schools to start the program, and we want to help the sustainability of it.” Asked if something good can come from from something terrible, Wiese replied, “Since the beginning, I’ve wanted to do something. Being around survivors of suicide, it’s just so difficult. It really is. I just want to help families and people through this process, and whatever I can to to help educate people about it, and kids, to open up conversations about mental health and suicide, just to kind of erase that stigma. To talk about it openly and not like it’s something bad to talk about.” “’Postvention’ is us being able to help others, but we’re helping ourselves, too,” Hawley said. “So this is part of the grief process. We’re going to continue to grieve, but this is helping that grief.” Last Saturday, more than 500 people pitched in to help, too.

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