Runners get ready for the start of Saturday morning's Lilly's Lope for Hope at Philomath City Park. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

On a pleasant Saturday morning in Philomath City Park this past weekend, local resident Alex Brooks paused for a few moments after finishing the Lilly’s Lope for Hope — the annual 5-kilometer run that raises money for suicide awareness.

Brooks participated with her 17-month-old daughter in a jogger stroller.

“We go for a run around here a lot and I saw that this was happening in your newsletter and we were able to make it in time,” she said. “It’s for a good cause … so we joined — first time.”

Alex Brooks and her 17-month-old running partner rest for a few minutes after finishing the 5K. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Brooks runs often with the baby.

“She ate a lot last night so it made it a little tough to push her,” she laughed.

Old Mill Center for Children and Families took over as the organizer for the first time this year. Development Manager Daniel Surfass said the number of participants came in at around 140.

“It’s awesome to see a community like this rally behind such an important cause,” Surfass said during a short presentation a few minutes before the race.

Lilly’s Lope for Hope was established 10 years ago by the family of 14-year-old suicide victim Lilly Stagner.

Jeffrey Alberghini finished first in Saturday’s Lilly’s Lope for Hope at Philomath City Park. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Jeffrey Alberghini, who moved to Corvallis in the last year, was the top individual runner.

“Ultimately, the cause brings me out — it means a lot to me,” Alberghini said. “It was nice that they actually have something in the area to support such an important thing.”

Several organizations were in attendance at the Lope as part of a Community Resource Fair. Henderer Design and Build, a company owned by Dave Henderer with a strong history in Philomath, was among those that wanted to be involved.

“Mr. Henderer’s children actually grew up in Philomath, so this is a very personal fundraiser for them,” said Noelle Myers, the company’s marketing director. “We’re just happy to help out the community and the Lilly’s Lope for Hope cause.”

Henderer Design and Build will celebrate its 30th year in 2024.

Old Mill Center’s Daniel Surfass shares comments with the crowd Saturday prior to the race. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Tyler Reece, clubhouse director for the Boys and Girls Club of Corvallis, was there as well with a table filled with information.

“Suicide awareness is something that a lot of our middle school and teens struggle with every day,” Reece said. “Obviously, our role in the community is really for youth to recognize their full potential in our after-school programs and services.”

The BGCC’s Johnson Teen Center provides various programs for students in grades 7-12 and right upstairs is access to mental health services through a partnership with Samaritan Health Services. Reece also mentioned other types of support services, including those offered by Old Mill Center.

“We focus more internally just on the elementary side of social skills and building those throughout so kids can work on those and develop those so that when they get to middle school and high school, it’s a little bit easier for them to navigate those things,” Reece said.

The 10th annual Lilly’s Lope for Hope attracted about 140 runners. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Starker Forests, another local organization with strong ties to Philomath, had a message to share.

“We’re getting the word out about how being outside can be really good for your mental health,” said Starker’s Corinne Walters. “We do a lot of kid tours specifically targeted towards first through fifth grade just with our surrounding schools here. We have a trail dedicated to it — it’s also open to the public but we bring classes out there and do tours just talking about natural resources and forestry.”

Walters was referring to the half-mile Starker Memorial Trail near Blodgett.

The Mid Willamette Trans Support Network had a table set up as well with Elijah Stucki, executive director, on hand to answer questions and share information.

“Youth suicide is a huge problem in our community and also with the ability for trans kids especially to not get the help that they need given all of the political rhetoric going on right now, so we’re here to help, that’s what we do,” Stucki said. “We provide resources and support for transgender, nonbinary, gender queer and intersex folks in our area.”

Altrusa International of Corvallis had a variety of free children’s books available. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Altrusa International of Corvallis added to the atmosphere by giving away free books.

“We try to make life better for families in the community — that’s what we’re here for,” said Helen Kupeli, Altrusa’s literacy chair. “Part of that is we have a literacy committee where we give books and try to do other projects focused around literacy with either the schools or out in the general community.”

Altrusa’s space at Lilly’s Lope featured several children’s books covering all age ranges.

“We try to find books that have all kinds of different subjects,” Kupeli said. “Every kid is going to find one book that’s got something that touches them and maybe that’s the thing that gets them reading or pulls them out of the situation that they’re in.”

Several other organizations had a presence as well with information, swag and activities.

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.