A Hunt for Life, A Search For Heroes- 4th Annual Festival of Hope Fights to Stop Suicide
When Bruce Wayne witnessed the murder of his parents in Crime Alley, he was forced with a choice. He could have let his grief, his sadness, his anger overpower him. He could have let them destroy and define him. Or, he could have used his pain, his grief, his anger and he could have channeled it into something good, something powerful, something...beautiful.
When Jenny Hunter and her husband learned that their son, J.R. had taken his own life, they were forced with that same choice. Do they retreat into themselves, allowing their grief to overcome and consume them?
Or do they take the worst possible thing a parent could ever go through, and use it to try and make sure it never happens to anybody else?
They chose the latter, and J.R.'s Hunt for Life was created.
"Shortly after J.R's death we felt compelled to reach out to others directly impacted by suicide," their website stated. "During our outreach it became apparent to us that our mission in life was to bring awareness to and prevent future deaths by suicide. We began our journey with a forum on social media. This forum allowed for those impacted by suicide or those contemplating a safe, judgement free space to express their voice and reach out for help. While our community grew, as did our dedication to reach a bigger audience. We started a non-profit and appropriately named it, 'J.R.'s Hunt ; For Life.' Our non-profit actively works to bring awareness to and prevent suicide. In addition it has become our mission to break the silence and reduce the stigma of mental illness, addiction, and suicide. "
On Saturday, the community gathered for the 4th Annual Festival of Hope, put on by J.R.'s Hunt for Life. There was music, there was dancing, there was food and fellowship and friends. There were heroes too, both in costume and out.
"J.R. took his life about six years ago," Jenny Hunter told K2 Radio News. "We started this event because what good is it if we can't help somebody else? And learn from it. So we have to take all of our experiences, at least I do, and turn them outwards to help other people. That's how I heal. And that's how I walk the journey."
The journey hasn't been easy. The road has been long and arduous. But Jenny and her husband walked it, nevertheless. They've walked it hand-in-hand with each other, and with their friends, family, and community members.
Every year, more and more Casper residents join the Hunt. Sponsors and vendors and the general public all come together at the Festival of Hope to mourn, to grieve, and to fight.
"It shows me that people are not alone," Hunter said. "They want to know they're not alone. They want to help each other. They want to break the stigma of this horrible thing called suicide. It's insidious, it's sneaky, it's deadly. So our community is turning it around on itself. They are coming together and wanting to help everyone."
Because that's what heroes do. When tragedy strikes, when death occurs, some people want to be held. Some people want to be ignored. And some people want to fight.
That's what the Hunter family are doing. They are fighting. They're fighting the stigma of suicide, the stigma of mental illness. They're not allowing death to win. And they're telling other people that suicide does not have to be the end of the story. Suicide was not the end of J.R.'s story.
"It just warms my hear that everyone can now look at J.R.'s Hunt for Life and know that there was a human being behind the loss. It's not just the loss; it's not just the suicide. There was a human being behind it. We're all humans. We all need to understand that we're vulnerable. So as long as people know there's humans behind this horrible thing that's happening, we can humanize it and we can work together."
Because the only way to fight back against death, the only way to ensure it doesn't win, is to talk about it; to take away its power. Suicide isn't the end of the story as long as people keep writing, keep fighting, keep living.
That is what the Hunter family is doing. They're living. They're fighting. And as long as they keep doing those things, suicide will not win.
"I've coined the phrase that 'Hope is the enemy of suicide,'" Hunter said. "I know that Batman has enemies. Batman is the enemy to the bad guys. And hope is the enemy of suicide. And that's why we offer hope."
Bruce Wayne could have given up, he could have given in. He could have let his anger consume him. But he didn't do that. He took the worst thing that could happen to a person, and he used it to make the world around him better. He made it his mission to make sure that nothing like he went through ever had to happen again. It's a futile mission. It's one that will never end, much like the fight against suicide. But Bruce Wayne fought anyway. So, too, do the Hunters. They fight because it's the right thing to do. They fight so that others don't have to experience the pain that they've gone through.
They fight because it's what J.R. would have wanted.