Team 4 Mario finds silver linings to virtual 5K

Written by Maria Sallese, suicide loss survivor and SafePlace attendee

Pictured: Team 4 Mario at the 2019 Samaritans Run/Walk for Suicide Prevention

My son, Mario, died by suicide in February of 2019. This is the second year that Team 4 Mario and I will be participating in the Samaritans 5K Run/Walk for Suicide Prevention.

I learned about the walk at the SafePlace meeting I attend. “Uplifting” seemed to be how the event was described and there was just something about a photo I’d seen of the Ribbon Wall memorial. The only thing I knew for sure last year was that I wanted to be there, and I wanted my son to be remembered on that wall. I wasn’t focused so much on putting a team together. That seemed to require more energy than I felt I had, so I kept it simple and registered myself and chose Team 4 Mario as a team name… 4 being his favorite and lucky number. I expected family and friends would register for the walk, but never did I imagine we would be a team of so many. Once family and friends started joining in, everything about it became so much more; it took on a deeper meaning. For me, it felt as though we were doing something not only in his memory, but for him NOW, in the present, to honor and celebrate his life.

Being at the walk was very moving. I never realized how many lives are lost, and how many lives are impacted, by suicide. There was such a strong sense of community connection being in the company of so many people remembering all of our loved ones in a very out loud way. For me, the out loud part is especially comforting. An event like this serves as an invitation for everyone, including ourselves, to talk about those we’ve lost out loud, and to share stories and smiles without hesitation. After the walk, our team got together back at my home and it was so nice to finish the day surrounded by those who came together to remember Mario.

I expect things will be a bit different this year with the event being virtual. I’ll miss placing a ribbon on the wall for him, I’ll miss being able to share the same space with all of my teammates, and I’ll miss seeing others that I’ve met in the Samaritans community, but I’m so happy to know that it’s still taking place. My uncle likes to say, when you get lemons – make lemonade. That’s how I’m looking at the walk this year. I’m not suggesting it will be lemons; I’m saying we can take something different and make it sweet and meaningful all the same.

Some of our team will gather locally to do our walk in a place where my son spent a lot of time. Mario liked to run the woodsy trails at Breakheart Reservation and I really like the thought that we’ll be walking in his footsteps, so to speak. I’ll especially miss hearing his name over the loud speaker when our team crosses the finish line, but I can still riddle our walk route with team signs and his name in big loud print.  And who knows, maybe some of the things that are implemented this year will stay in place moving forward. I have family and friends as far away as MI and WI that have joined our team. That’s a really nice feeling. Knowing that wherever we walk, even across the miles, we’ll be walking and wearing our team shirts and we’ll all be together in spirit remembering Mario. That speaks in a volume louder than any loud speaker.

It is so very true that the gift is in giving because what you receive back is so much more. Being able to focus my thoughts and time on something positive by planning ahead for the 5K is my way of doing something for my son. That keeps him close and that’s a gift beyond measure. That’s why I walk.

At the time of publishing, Team 4 Mario is the largest team registered with 17 people! Check out their team page to donate to Team 4 Mario or register to walk/run on September 26!

Hear more from Maria in the beautiful blog post she wrote in April 2020 on what SafePlace has meant to her during her journey in grief.