One year ago this week, the ski world was tipped out of its orbit with the news that Jeret "Speedy" Peterson, an Olympic freestyle aerials medalist, had taken his life.
Though he had struggled with inner demons for many years, those closest to Speedy were shocked by his suicide. "He was doing so well on the outside. He was back in school and was doing great. He had some new business ideas that seemed they were going to take off. He was happy and excited about things," says former teammate and one Speedy's close friends, Jana Lindsey. "But he was hiding his pain. The demons were just too much."
Despite their shock and grief, Speedy's friends knew they wanted to keep his memory alive. So just a few days after his death, they created The Speedy Foundation, a charity dedicated to understanding mental illness, preventing suicide and fighting its stigma through education, research and advocacy.
For Jana, who was Speedy's friend for more than 13 years, being part of this foundation has also helped her in her own healing process.
"It's still so hard to believe he's not here anymore. We spent so much time together, it's been really challenging. I still expect to see him. But being part of this has helped me, because we're doing things that will hopefully help other people like him and prevent them from thinking suicide is their only option."
And so the foundation is having its first major fundraiser on August 10 to raise money for suicide education and prevention. It's actually a co-fundraiser with the Utah Olympic Park, where Speedy spent so much of his life training for his sport.
"The event, Hurricane for HOPE, will be an evening designed to celebrate the joy of sport and the impact being active has on our community," notes Christina Shiebler, Speedy's friend and former roommate. "We will also be celebrating and remembering the life and legacy of Speedy, who embodied sportsmanship, the love of participating in sport and the joy of being active. Proceeds from this event will be used to develop and deliver community educational programs dedicated to understanding mental illness, fighting its stigma and preventing suicide. They'll also be used to further youth sport programs that engage, transform and inspire kids to participate in sports and enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle."
There are three ticket packages to choose from. All include a silent auction, live music, meet-and-greet with several Olympic athletes, and a Flying Ace All Star big-air show.
Jana says Speedy taught her so much about their sport and about life, she wants people who attend this event and know how special Speedy was as an athlete and a person. She also wants people to feel empowered to recognize the warning signs of suicide and step in to help.
"We want people to know there are resources. We want people to understand warning signs and understand how sport can teach you a lot of lessons in life and help cope with things that seem overwhelming. We want people to know mental illness is not a taboo. It's OK to admit you need help. We want people to feel empowered to help too. And realize that mental illness is not a negative thing."
For more information about the organization, visit: www.thespeedyfoundation.org.
For tickets and more information about Hurricane for Hope, visit: www.hurricaneforhope.com.
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Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, public-relations guru and globe-trotting thrill seeker. In a former life she worked in TV news, both as a reporter and sports anchor. She has bagged peaks on six continents, kayaked the Zambezi and Nile rivers, swam with great white sharks in South Africa and tracked mountain gorillas in Rwanda. She was once very nearly sold for 2,000 camels while traveling through Morocco.