Hundreds to raise youth suicide awareness on Saturday ride through Park City
August 20, 2018
The hills will come alive with the sound of pistons as more than 100 cars and motorcycles are set to roll through Kamas, Oakley and Park City on their way to the Park City Fire District station on Bitner Road the morning of Saturday, Aug. 25.
The reason for the noise? The riders will be raising money for youth suicide awareness.
Hundreds of participants, escorted by 15 Utah Highway Patrol officers on motorcycles, will drive the 78 miles from Timpanogos Harley-Davidson in Orem to the fire station for the latest edition of the Utah Vision Rally, a collaboration between local mental health advocacy group Connect Summit County and the Taylor Hagen Memorial Foundation, a Holladay-based suicide awareness organization and the beneficiary of the fundraiser.
Shauna Wiest, executive director of Connect, said the ride was borne out of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's "Out of the Darkness" walks. In this case, though, the event is on wheels.
The fire station will play host to a barbecue lunch open to anyone who wishes to attend, which will feature speakers from Connect and from the Taylor Hagen foundation. In addition, the names and faces of loved ones who have died from suicide will adorn a memorial, and posters will be held up by participants as the riders enter the station.
Wiest said that anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide can submit names and photos for display at the event, and that interested parties should email a name and photograph to email@example.com by 5 p.m. Monday for inclusion.
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For its beneficiaries, the ride is a deeply personal one. Cristie North lost her son, Taylor Hagen, to suicide last January. He was 23.
Less than a week later, North, a Holladay resident who works in mortgage finance, founded the Taylor Hagen Memorial Foundation to raise awareness of mental health issues and youth suicide in Utah, and it has become a family operation. Todd Hagen, Taylor's father, and his wife Connie Hagen, serve on the nonprofit's board, and Taylor's surviving siblings carry out various jobs behind the scenes for the organization that bears his name.
"This has given us so much purpose," North said. "Everybody is pretty involved."
The foundation aims to advance its cause in a number of ways, including fundraisers like the Utah Vision Rally and partnering with Connect earlier this year to bring ESPN journalist Kate Fagan to Park City for a series of talks. The organization also awards scholarships to two Utah hockey players each year, in recognition of Taylor's favorite sport. In 2017, Zane St. Martin, a Park City High School student, received one of them.
The Utah Vision Rally has doubled participation over the last year, North said. To her, its growth indicates both that the foundation is on the right track and belongs in Utah, which has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the country, and that the problem has become an "epidemic."
"It makes me sit back and reflect," she said. "There are so many people out there that you don't know what they're dealing with, you don't know what's going on outside of what they may show you on a day-to-day basis."
A Summit County Health Department study found that 25 percent of Summit County students reported having mental health issues in 2017. Wiest said that, while the number is clearly troubling, it reflects a breaking down of the stigma associated with talking about mental health in the first place because similar surveys in the past may have shown an under-reportage of problems.
For more information on how to participate and the route the ride will take, visit https://www.utahvisionrally.com/.