2nd annual DLG Jingle Bell Run/Walk 5K and costume contest coming Dec. 11
Coming into its second year, the DLG Jingle Bell Run/Walk 5K and costume contest will be held on Saturday, Dec. 11 starting at 9 a.m. at Dodge City Family YMCA, located at 240 San Jose Dr. in Dodge City.
Sign up is $25 with proceeds going to the Ford County Suicide Prevention Coalition and Dodge City High School Student Club.
The run is in honor of Devon Griego, of Dodge City, who died by suicide in 2018.
According to Jingle Bell run organizer and cousin of Griego, Charree Rodriguez, the run started last year as a virtual event due to COVID-19 with those participating logging their miles online over a five-day span.
"Dec. 10 is Devon's birthday and that is why I had chosen that date," Rodriguez said. "However this year with that being on a Friday I don’t think I would get as many people there."
Rodriguez said she felt she needed to do something for her cousin who was one of the most important people in her heart.
"Devon’s my cousin, his mom, and my mom are sisters, unfortunately, all three are no longer with us. I was so close with my Aunt Lena, in turn giving me a close relationship with Devon and his older brother Audres.
"Devon was more than my cousin he was like the little brother I never had. When we lost him on Aug. 5, 2018, my entire world was turned upside down. My heart shattered into a million pieces."
The date will forever be etched in Rodriguez's memory. She, along with her husband and son were on the road coming back home from Omaha, Nebraska, when she received a phone call.
"I got a phone call from my cousin as I was walking back to my car in Concordia," Rodriguez said. "We had just stopped for gas and I had grabbed a pizza and raspberry tea. I can remember every single detail of that moment. I got the call that he had died and of course did not want to believe it. I then called my Uncle Mike, Devon’s dad, to I guess get the real information and he told me Devon had taken his life and I needed to get there ASAP.
"I cried the entire way home. I felt a pain that is worse than anything I have ever experienced in my life. Anyone who knew Devon can attest to his amazing presence. The way he would make everyone laugh, the most amazing hugs came from him. That kid would do anything for anyone."
The last time Rodriguez spoke with Griego she had asked him to buy her onion and tortillas for a dinner she was putting together that he was attending.
"He got it for me and brought it as soon as he got off work," Rodriguez said. "His relationship with my kids was also a great one. "He made it to every program and sporting event they had and they loved it so much. That is just the kind of person he was, you could always count on him for any favor and all he wanted in return usually involved food, he loved to eat."
After the passing of Griego, Rodriguez got involved with the Ford County Suicide Prevention Coalition and then began teaching at DCHS where she shares her passion for mental health and suicide awareness with her students, as well as assist them in learning how to deal with their struggles through what she teaches in the classroom.
DCHS also has a mental health club called #BETHE1, that Rodriguez participates in.
"My ultimate goal since losing him is to help my students and people in our community and anyone I come in contact with the understanding they are not alone in their struggles, they are loved more than they know and they matter so much," said Rodriguez. "The pain my family felt after losing someone so amazing is something I do not want anyone to ever feel and if I can maybe save one life through these things I am part of now, then I will have succeeded in my life. The reason behind this run is to raise money to then help these two groups raise awareness in our community. Everything I do as a Mental Health Advocate and spread awareness about Suicide Prevention is because of the love I hold for Devon."
The previous Jingle Bell run raised $450 which was donated to the Ford County Suicide Prevention Coalition.
By splitting the proceeds for this year, it will assist students raise awareness and spread positivity in the school and community through the mental health club.
To sign up for the run, visit https://runsignup.com/Race/KS/DodgeCity/DLGJingleBell5k?fbclid=IwAR0erwsVueK5_GxejBwCXw0FGe5lOafbMazUgQa15i57OLW5fWtnfd1OFLw or scan the QR code on flyers through Rodriguez's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/charree.donley or by searching “DLG JINGLE BELL RUN” through Google.
"One big thing I decided to do this year made it a kids-free event," Rodriguez said. "I know it can get pricey signing up families for things like this and I thought that if I made it kids free I would get more participation."
This year will also feature a costume contest because of how Griego was such a fun person and how he made people laugh, Rodriguez said.
"I want to continue that with this run," she said. "I want people to dress up and come have fun. I want to carry on his legacy of fun and just an amazing light in everyone’s life that knew him. I always share his story with my students, not to be sappy, but because his life and loss are so much of my own story and the stories I heard about him the first two years I was at the high school proved how much of an impact and light he was in everyone’s life. This year not many of my students know who he was, which kind of hurts my heart. "But at the same time, they still are being impacted by him and his legacy through the things I do and am passionate about."
Through that hope, Rodriguez's takeaway will be for people of all ages to continue to fight and have the ability to raise awareness for mental health and suicide prevention in their communities.
"The bigger picture is to raise awareness about the struggles with mental health illnesses such as depression and anxiety many of us struggle with daily, including me," Rodriguez said. "I hope to get people to understand that the more we talk about this and the more we are aware we are removing the stigma, in the end, that will help us save lives. And that is the big picture. Saving lives!"
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