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Soaking wet to break stigma: Solomon's Super Soaker Fun Fest in Winona raises mental health awareness

Soaking wet to break stigma: Solomon's Super Soaker Fun Fest in Winona raises mental health awareness

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Solomon Elhindi loved a good prank.

He was a kind person who made everyone smile. A runner who loved to have fun.

So when his parents, Mohamed Elhindi and Carol Daul-Elhindi, and family were looking for a way to celebrate the life of the young prankster who took his life at 14 in January, the idea of a fun race where participants got soaked by squirt guns just seemed natural.

“We were torn apart. We still are,” Solomon’s sister, Taycier, said. She added: “We can either fall or we can make something out of it. Do something.”

Mohamed said he believes it was the work of his son.

“Solomon kind of put it together,” he said, smiling.

After his death, the Elhindi family started Solomon’s Song, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating conversations about mental illness and raising funds for support and resources. Saturday morning was the organization’s first event — and it was a big success.

Nearly 500 people came out to the Solomon’s Super Soaker Fun Fest to run and walk around west Lake Winona, encounter Solomon’s friends with Super Soakers around every bend, and hear positive messages about dealing with mental illness.

Funds raised from the event will go to support local mental health programs and assistance.

Emma Zeller, 15, and Erik Zeller, 17, were two volunteers spraying runners and walkers as they made their way around the course.

The Zellers made sure each runner got a good spray before the next station, something Erik said Solomon would appreciate.

“(It) just seemed like the type of thing he’d enjoy doing,” Erik said.

Just down the path from the Zellers was Theo Meyer, 15, a neighbor of the Elhindis.

“It’s crazy and fun and wild,” Meyer said of the event — as he re-filled his water gun.

Meyer said he has been amazed at the family’s ability to turn grief into an awareness campaign.

Even if participants were elusive enough to escape the water on the course, the beginning of the race featured a wall of water, thanks to the Winona Fire Department, a fire hydrant and a powerful hose.

The event also featured a slip-n-slide, dunk tank, yard games, door prizes, bounce houses, food and music. There were green-shirted volunteers of mental health professionals, state lawmakers and others, all available to talk to anyone in need of a chat or someone to listen, or to learn more about community resources available.

It was all done for the young boy and a mission the family has chosen to create from their adversity: abolishing the stigma around mental illness.

“The major issue behind mental health is a stigma,” Mohamed said. “Talk about it. Coming out and showing people, we can fix it.”

To Mohamed, breaking the stigma and hosting this event could not have been done without the support and planning of the Winona community. He added that someone even approached him during the race, asking if they could help organize it next year.

“This community is just unbelievable,” Mohamed said. “The community did the event. This is true Winona. We lift each other, and we take care of each other.”

Mohamed believed Solomon helped bring the event together, just one more way for the young, caring boy to help his community.


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