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According to one statistic I have read, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds and second for 24- to 35-year-olds. A very scary statistic when one thinks about it. Most of us have probably somehow been affected by the tragedy of suicide. Whether someone among your close family or friend circle has taken their own life or maybe someone from your school or workplace or community, we have all been affected by the tragedy of suicide.

Our family has also been affected. Nine years ago, our nephew Charlie was taken from us by the tragedy of suicide. There are only four cousins on my side of the family, including my two kids, so the four are more like brothers and sisters than cousins. Charlie had struggled with depression before, but he somehow seemed to persevere through it and convinced us all he was doing fine. On March 15, 2010, his struggle became too difficult, and he ended it at the age of 26. His loss devastated all our close-knit family, no one more than his single mom, my sister, Barb. Charlie was someone who treasured family and every holiday spent together was a memory to be made.

We debated for awhile about taking steps to do our part in trying to educate our community about the ever-growing issues of depression and suicide. There are several others from the local area whose lives have been cut far too short from this tragedy. We wanted to take a proactive step instead of choosing just to grieve year after year. Yes, we still grieve. March 15 never gets any easier. Those holidays without Charlie’s smiles, humor and bright blue eyes will never be the same. Last year, we decided to choose Charlie’s birthday, July 6, to hold a fundraiser here at Culver’s to raise money for a couple of suicide prevention initiatives that help to educate the surrounding communities.

This year, we decided to raise the bar a little. We contacted our Culver’s vendors as well as businesses and friends in Winona and surrounding communities in order to be able to give away raffle prizes to raise interest and hold a silent auction to raise even more funds. The response we received from these people was amazing. We have received items that are unbelievably generous. Make sure to check these out on July 6.

On this day, Saturday, Culver’s of Winona will donate at least 10% of the total day’s sales back to La Crosse Area Suicide Prevention Initiative. We will also donate all the proceeds from the silent auction items back to them. There will be ribbons available for a donation of $1 to remember a loved one or friend’s name on a wall. We will also have information and staff available to answer questions about mental health.

We hope to make this an annual event in order to keep raising more money to make people more aware of this cause.

If anyone you know needs further help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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Ellen Minter owns Culver’s of Winona along with her husband, Mike Minter. Their son, Tim Vodak, is the general manager.

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