Saturday’s Lilly’s Lope for Hope begins at 9 a.m. with prerace activities with the 5K run set for 10 a.m. start. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Ten years following the death of 14-year-old Philomath High freshman Lilly Stagner, the mission of raising awareness about youth suicide and eliminating the stigma of receiving mental health services continues through the annual Lilly’s Lope for Hope fundraiser.

Philomath resident Paula May launched the event in 2014 in the year that followed her niece’s suicide to connect youth with available resources. A 5-kilometer race serves as the main attraction but it also gives related agencies and organizations an opportunity to connect with the community.

The 10th annual Lilly’s Lope for Hope begins at 9 a.m. Saturday with activities at Philomath City Park. The 5K run is scheduled for a 10 a.m. start.

Old Mill Center for Children & Families, in its first year organizing the event, believes it was a natural fit with the desire to continue with May’s vision.

“We just felt that their mission and what they were going for with youth suicide prevention and awareness really aligned well with what our programs here at Old Mill Center do,” said Daniel Surfass, Old Mill Center’s development manager. “We have an outpatient counseling department here and so we do mental health counseling for kids ages 3 to 18 and their families and we also have other programs here that work towards behavioral and mental health.”

Old Mill Center, which is located in west Corvallis, also has strong ties to the local community from its founding in 1977.

“Our co-founder and her family are from Philomath and so we just saw that this was a way for us to keep doing that work,” Surfass said. “It’s really the only fundraiser around here that speaks to youth mental health and the need for those kinds of services.”

Surfass believes Lilly’s Lope brings a challenging subject into focus with the mission of assisting youth with mental health services.

“I see it as trying to erase that negative stigma of mental health services, especially for children and families,” he added.

Lilly’s Lope for Hope’s silent auction will run from 9-11:30 a.m. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The morning begins at 9 with registration, a silent auction and an accompanying Community Resource Fair.

“We’ve got 10 different tables with community resource partners that will be there,” Surfass said. “They all just kind of share the same mission of suicide awareness and prevention.”

Organizations planning to participate include Philomath Youth Activities Club, Jackson Street Youth Services, Maxtivity, Philomath School District counselors, Benton County Mental Health Department, Oregon Family Support Network, Strengthening Rural Families, Corvallis School District’s mental health and wellness program, Boys and Girls Club of Corvallis and the Mid Willamette Trans Support Network. In addition, Altrusa International of Corvallis will be handing out books.

The silent auction will feature at least 33 different packages, Surfass said, with items that together have around $3,000 in value.

Following the main event of the morning, a “fun run” will be staged.

“Anyone can participate but we’re geared more towards the younger kids,” Surfass said. “It’s going to be like a little relay .. and I think the plan is to do something like a sprint, an egg on a spoon walk and then maybe a hop for probably 100 or 200 feet. And then each of those participants will go home with a little treat.”

For those who didn’t register before the cutoff date to receive a Lilly’s Lope for Hope T-shirt, they can still be purchased from the vendor, Surfass said. Extreme Graphics is making T-shirts and sweatshirts available online and for each item purchased, $5 will be donated back to Lilly’s Lope.

 Surfass expects somewhere in the neighborhood of 140 runners to participate in the 5K. As of Wednesday, more than 110 had registered online for the event and more were expected through an organization that indicated it would be signing up more. Plus, there will likely be a handful of others who register on-site on the morning of the event.

Event proceeds will provide mental health counseling, support and suicide prevention education for Benton County youth.

For example, Surfass said Old Mill Center is currently in talks with Philomath High School to determine if its outpatient counseling skills trainers could contract with the district to “provide grief and skills training to the students during school hours,” Surfass said. “We don’t have anything that’s in a contract with that quite yet, but that’s one of our goals.”

Grief and skills training work is also a possibility in the Monroe School District, he added.

Another program in place is providing assistance to those who are financially strapped to cover the cost of health insurance co-pays but are seeking support. Proceeds will also go to Old Mill’s outpatient counseling programs to continue to build on its services.

“Those are kind of the three main things that we’re looking at right now,” Surfass said.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.