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Father of UI senior who died by suicide wants to raise awareness with 5K

Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 5:27 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - It’s been nearly a year since Tim Vipond lost his son to suicide and he’s on a mission now to help others.

“The first few months are extremely hard," Vipond said.

Vipond describes this past year as a year of firsts, after losing his son Jeff.

“He very much loved people, and he was a very funny fella, and he had a big heart," Vipond said.

Jeff graduated from Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids and was in his last year of studies at the University of Iowa. This past year, Tim says he learned that Jeff was one of two other University of Iowa students that died by suicide within three months of each other.

“The biggest thing I didn’t realize was boys from 15 to 24 they have a very high percentage of suicide without anyone really knowing anything, and that was a statistic that really hit me," Vipond said.

Their lives will be among those remembered with a virtual 5K that Tim, along with Foundation 2 has organized, to spread awareness about mental health.

“I really felt like it was something that Jeff would want me to do," Vipond said.

“We pretty often have family, or friends or community members that reach out to us and say I really want to honor this person and it’s really just a neat thing to see somebody’s loss and tragedy really turn into serving people," Katie Curtis, chief development officer with Foundation 2, said.

Curtis said compared to last year, Foundation 2 has seen a 100% increase in calls to their crisis center, partly due to the pandemic and derecho.

“We know that people are at higher risk to die by suicide because of the isolation, uncertainty, anxiety, and depression that has come along with the chaos that’s been this year," Curtis said.

Curtis said they know the needs for their help won’t be slowing down anytime soon. She encouraged people to check in with their network, pay attention to warning signs, and call their crisis line even if it’s someone else they are worried about.

“We tell people if you are not sure if you should call or ask for help from somebody, you should call and ask for help from someone," Curtis said.

For Tim, he hopes by learning from his son’s death, he can be an inspiration for others to keep going.

“I just hope by working with Foundation 2 and anything I can do, that we can get the awareness out and hopefully, if we could just save a few people that would be great," Vipond said.

The 5K takes place from October 24th through November 1st. Right now, 90 people have signed up, and Vipond says he has a goal of 250. People can sign up on Foundation 2′s website.

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