Students To Begin 4,500-Mile Bike Trek From Baylor To Anchorage To Bring Awareness To Suicide Prevention

May 14, 2008

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275

On Thursday, May 15, five Baylor University students, who created the Alive Campaign after a close friend attempted suicide, will make good on their promise to him - and to more than 277,000 Facebook friends - as they begin a 4,500-mile bike journey over 83 days from Waco, Texas, to Anchorage, Alaska, to raise awareness about suicide prevention.

After their friend's disclosure last November, the students - Justin Brown of El Paso, Alyson Erikson of San Antonio, Kyle Ferguson of Schertz, Nathan Lloyd of Itasca and Andi Nakasone of Okinawa, Japan - vowed to bring attention to efforts to prevent the third-leading cause of death among young people ages 15-24.

They started the grassroots Alive Campaign with a simple Facebook group called "Four Guys, One Destination, One Mission: Suicide Prevention." To give their friend hope and a reason to live, they vowed that if they could get 250,000 people to join their Facebook group, they would bike ride over the summer from Texas to Alaska to bring awareness to one of the last "taboo" subjects in society.

The group started with 100 friends at 8:20 p.m. on Nov. 4, 2007. Remarkably, less than two weeks later, they hit 250,000 friends at 7:15 p.m. on Nov. 17. Their group currently stands at 277,775 members.

After a brief ceremony at 10 a.m. Thursday at Baylor's McLane Student Life Center, the students will launch memorial balloons and head out on the first 41-mile leg of their adventure, stopping for the night in Gatesville, Texas, before heading out for Brownwood the next day.

ADDITIONAL FACTS ABOUT THE JOURNEY:

    • As they make their trek through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Yukon Territory and eventually Alaska, the students will stay with Baylor alumni, who have been contacted by the Baylor Network to provide a place for the team to rest and recharge during their journey.

    • Along the way they will film a documentary on the power of friendship, adventure and the stories of those who have battled depression and suicide. Alyson Erikson and Andi Nakasone are both majoring in film and digital media at Baylor.

    • Early in the process of organizing the Alive Campaign, the students worked closely with Dr. Susan Matlock-Hetzel, staff psychologist at the Baylor Counseling Center, taking it "upon themselves to learn as much as they could about the topic of suicide in order to be better informed advocates for those who had no champion," she said. The students have taken Baylor's QPR Certified Gatekeeper Training Course on suicide prevention. QPR stands for "Question, Persuade, and Refer:" how to Question someone about their suicidal thoughts, communications, or behaviors, how to Persuade someone to stay alive and get help, and how and where to Refer someone at-risk to the next level of intervention.

    • As a non-profit organization, the Alive Campaign hopes to establish a university chapter system to foster a peer support community and to continue spreading awareness and education locally, especially among high school and college campuses.

    • The students have been provided with a van to keep them safe on their journey and also house their film crew and equipment.

    • On March 11, the Alive Campaign made a national appearance on mtvU, as they hosted the music video show, "Dean's List," and spoke about suicide prevention: http://www.mtvu.com/video/?id=1583108&vid=215219. They will host the show again, filming their segment this summer while on the road.

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