Hundreds turn out to help raise funds and awareness about suicide prevention

It's been more than seven years now since Tyler Paul Whitman made the tragic decision to end his young life.

A 2011 graduate of Wallenpaupack Area, Tyler was a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh when he committed suicide in his dorm room.

It's a heartbreaking story, one that still reverberates through the circle of Tyler's family and friends.

In the wake of his death, Sheila Whitman decided to create an event that would serv several purposes.

First and foremost, she didn't want people to forget her beloved son. Secondly, she sought to start a conversation and perhaps raise awareness for those possibly struggling with thoughts of suicide.

Finally, the Whitman Family strove to create a scholarship fund to help support Paupack students headed for college.

And so, seven years ago, the very first Hawley Spring Run took place at Bingham Park. Hundreds of folks turned out to take part … and to remember Tyler.

Gratitude

On a sun-soaked Sunday afternoon, the 7th annual 5K once again attracted boys and girls, men and women from all over the region.

The gazebo was buzzing with activity with live music, rows upon rows of basket raffle items and tables manned by experts in suicide prevention.

Most importantly, though, there were runners and walkers of all ages and abilities enjoying for an entertaining event.

“I'm very happy with how things went today,” Sheila said. “It means so much to me that so many people show up every year to support us.

“Some of Tyler's friends come from hundreds of miles away. They're great kids and I can't thank them enough for being here.”

The Hawley Spring Run serves as a fundraiser for the Tyler Paul Whitman Memorial Scholarship Fund. This year, Sheila has received 21 essays from current Wallenpaupack Area students applying for one of these grants.

The Whitman Family also hosts an Open Mike Night which benefits the Northeast Suicide Prevention Initiative. It's held each spring at the Cooperage in Honesdale.

“I feel that if I'd been aware of the signs, maybe my son might still be here,” Sheila said. “It's so very important that we can talk with our children about suicide. We need to be very direct … ask the question and start the conversation.

“There's help out there and I just want people to know they're not alone.”

Sheila is very appreciative of the support she's received from the local community for the past seven years.

“This is such a fantastic place to live,” she said. “I want to thank everyone … from Mayor Kevin Hawk to the Hawley Borough Police Department and all our volunteers. We couldn't do any if this without them.”

On the Dais

Seth Brown was Sunday's overall race winner.

A Wallenpaupack Area junior, Seth covered the challenging 5K layout in 19:08.10. That time was good enough for a cushion of more than two minutes over his closest competitor.

“I really like the course,” Seth said. “I think it has a really good balance of flat areas and then a big hill that kind of carries you to the finish line.”

Brown is very active is extracurricular activities at Paupack. He is currently Student Council President. He's also very active in the Future Business Leaders of America, and as a member of the Wayne County Youth Advisory Committee.

While winning the race was definitely a worthwhile goal, just being present for the Whitman Family carries even more meaning for this track and cross country star.

“It's just a great cause,” Seth said. “Tyler was a good guy and a great friend of our family. We all really miss him and we're happy to come out and support the race every year.”

Rounding out the top five for the men were: Marco Barral (22:49.90), Zane Hopkins (24:07.30), Charlie Whitman (24:07.40), John Kielar (25:20.40).

Women's Champ

Tiffany Leventhal was the top female finisher.

A Honesdale High School graduate and junior high cross country coach, this was Leventhal's second race in two days.

She ran the Roy Thorpe Memorial 5K Saturday at RD Wilson in Waymart. On Sunday, she powered her way to a time of 21:42.1 which was good for second in the overall standings.

“It's so hot and I'm very tired,” Tiffany said with a smile. “But, it doesn't matter if it's a million degrees because this is such a great cause and I will always try to be here to show my support.”

Leventhal echoed Brown's sentiments when explaining her reasons for making this particular event a summertime priority.

“I'm a teacher and I see what kids struggle with every single day,” Tiffany said. “If we can show them a little bit of support, maybe they'll realize there are people out here who care.”

Michele Walutes was the second woman across the finish line. A longtime educator and cross country coach at Paupack, Walutes stopped the clock at 24:12, good for sixth overall.

Rounding out the front five were: Rylee Arenson (26:00.00), Abby Michalek (29:05.80), Sam Sherrard (29:25.50).