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Meredith Holt, Published September 23 2012

Hundreds walk for suicide awareness in Fargo

FARGO – Chelsie Peters of Fargo wore a ribbon in her hair, glitter on her cheeks and a pale-pink T-shirt in honor of her hometown friend and fellow former cheerleader Meghan Lewis.

Peters and 20 or 30 of Lewis’ other friends and supporters formed a suicide awareness and prevention team Sunday afternoon to remember the 24-year-old Fargo woman who ended her life Aug. 11.

Lewis, a 2006 graduate of West Fargo High School who grew up in Horace, N.D., was “a ray of sunshine” who “brought so much light into the room,” said Peters, also 24.

“The sun’s shining – she’s telling us she’s thinking of us,” she said.

Meghan Lewis’ group in pink joined about 900 others in the local chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s seventh annual “Out of the Darkness” community walk in Lindenwood Park here.

Brenda Weiler, daughter of Mary Weiler, chairwoman of the North Dakota chapter of the foundation, estimated Sunday evening that this year’s event raised a total of $60,000. Mary lost her daughter Jennifer to suicide in 2005.

“We are here today because we know that we must help those who are struggling with depression and remember and honor those we have lost,” Mary Weiler said at the walk’s kickoff.

Tim and Denise Eggebraaten, of Detroit Lakes, Minn., walked to remember and honor their friend and colleague Chad Jutz, who died by suicide on May 13, Mother’s Day.

Jutz, who was a 19-year member of the Detroit Lakes Police Department, the department’s first school resource officer, a husband and a father of four children, was well-known in his community.

“He was always one that you knew where he stood, because he was very vocal and he would tell you what he felt about something. He would let you know if he was happy or sad or mad,” said Tim, Jutz’s former partner and chief.

“It was a shock,” Denise added.

The Eggebraatens estimated that there were 15 to 20 others wearing purple “Team Chad Jutz” T-shirts, including Jutz’s daughter, who was recently crowned Miss Red River Valley Outstanding Teen.

“We look out for the family, and the family looks out for everybody,” Tim said of the Jutzes.

In her speech before the walk, Pam Gulleson, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, talked about the importance of speaking up.

“Suicide affects so many families in our communities, but too often survivors and loves ones feel isolated and alone. It’s important to share our stories of love and loss,” she said.

Police Chief Tim Eggebraaten said in his grieving process, he tries to focus on what he can control rather than what he can’t.

“Even if he would have told us that morning, who knows if we could have helped him or not,” he said. “You try to apply logic to the illogical, and it doesn’t work.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590