The race is on

McALISTERVILLE – Depression may seem like a race that no one can win. One young man is hoping to change that.

An East Juniata High School junior has created a race to promote mental health awareness and suicide prevention.

Jordan Kerstetter, of McAlisterville, is doing his senior project in the form of “TDB Memorial 5KRace/Walk/Kids Run,” beginning at 10 a.m. May 18 at the Fayette Area Lion’s Den in McAlisterville. Registration is from 8 to 9:45 a.m.

Interested persons can preregister until April 13 for $15; kids run for $10. Race day registration is $20; kids run for $15.

All proceeds are being donated to the Brandon Bitner Memorial Scholarship Fund. The fund was established in 2010 following the suicidal death of Bitner, a Midd-West High School student and an accomplished violinist. The fund gives scholarships to an accomplished music student at Susquehanna University.

The mission to promote awareness of the topic of suicide and mental health hits home for Kerstetter.

A little more than a month after Bitner’s suicide, Kerstetter’s own family was shaken as his mom’s cousin, Danny Foose, took his own life. This was not a new tragedy to the family, says Jordan’s mom, Christy. Danny’s own brother, Todd, took his life in 1995, before Jordan was born.

Christy says her family often relates to themselves as “survivors of suicide.”

The title of the race, TDB, is in the initials of Todd, Danny and Brandon.

“I didn’t know Todd,” Jordan said, but felt a connection to him through his mom’s stories about his life. Jordan was able to connect with Danny and felt a closeness to him, especially on the soccer field. Danny had played soccer for Juniata High School a number of years ago. Jordan, who plays soccer for East Juniata, says he now has a greater love for soccer because of Danny.

Since Danny’s death, Jordan says “Every time we play a (JV) game on Juniata’s field I score a goal.”

It’s like his cousin is right there with him, he said.

Jordan said his ultimate goal is to make people aware that mentally ill people are able to achieve help in various ways – through therapy and support of others. He wants people to recognize that ending one’s life is not the answer.

Ultimately, it’s those left behind who continue to hurt, Christy pointed out.

She remembers both the September day she was told Todd had died and the December day when her phone rang bringing news about Danny.

“If he can help one person by doing this, it’s worth it,” Christy said of Jordan’s project.

Jordan never knew Brandon, but was moved by his legacy.

He has been in touch with Tammy Simpson, Brandon’s mom, who has committed her time as an anti-bullying advocate on behalf of her son. She noted she is pleased with Jordan’s actions.

“I’m glad he is bringing awareness to suicide by having the walk,” she said, mentioning the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 statistic naming suicide as the third leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24.

“It’s so sad and I don’t believe people realize just how bad it is,” Simpson said.

Those who preregister for the race will receive a T-shirt. A local woman, Donna Capobianco, designed the shirt, featuring the words “Suicide and Mental Health Awareness,” with a tree on the front. Along the branches of the tree are the words: support, educate, include, advocate, love and express.

Businesses are encouraged to donate to the race and will have their name printed on the back of the T-shirt as sponsors. Checks can be written to TDB Memorial and sent to 50 Stop Plaza Drive, Mifflintown, PA 17059, or donated to any branch of the First National Bank of Mifflintown.

Prizes will be given the day of the race to top overall male and female in the following age groups: 14 and under, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59 and 60 plus. All Kid Run participants 12 and under receive a prize.

Registration forms can be obtained by contacting Jordan at