Running to comfort the children of suicide

Dec 31, 2015 by

Published in the December 31, 2015 edition

By BOB TUROSZ

SHELBY PATTERSON of Mount Vernon St. will run the 2016 Boston Marathon to benefit Camp Kita in Maine, which provides a safe environment for the children of suicide. (Bob Turosz Photo)

SHELBY PATTERSON of Mount Vernon St. will run the 2016 Boston Marathon to benefit Camp Kita in Maine, which provides a safe environment for the children of suicide. (Bob Turosz Photo)

NORTH READING – In the United States today, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, claiming an average of 102 lives each day. As tragic as those statistics may be, they’re only the tip of the iceberg, because every case of suicide leaves behind friends and family members – sometimes young children – who are left devastated, reeling with a sense of grief and isolation.

That’s why North Reading’s Shelby Patterson will run the Boston Marathon in 2016, as a fundraiser for Camp Kita in Maine, a special retreat for the children of suicide.

Patterson is a transplanted southerner who loves New England and is the mother of two young daughters, ages 2 ½ and one year. She and her husband Kirk, the Family Life Pastor at the Trinity Evangelical Church, and the girls have lived in town for 2 ½ years. She has long been passionate about running and social justice issues and when the opportunity came to fundraise for Camp Kita, she ran with it.

Camp Kita was created by the Mosher family, three siblings whose father committed suicide in 2002. Two years ago they created this camp in North Berwick, Maine in an effort to create a fun, safe environment for children ages 8 to 17 who have gone through the same thing. “The kids can talk or not talk about their loss, they can play games and engage and just feel safe and loved,” Patterson said.

Patterson is a former first grade teacher who is still passionate about children and when she learned of Camp Kita she saw the opportunity to benefit the camp and partner with the marathon as the blending of both worlds.

She’s run three or four marathons in the past, including Disney, Providence and another in Amish country, and several half-marathons. As a young mother, she finds running gives her a good break from things and some personal space. Running for Camp Kita allows her to be the voice of a good cause.

“To be able to be a voice for a cause like this is like a part time job – getting the word out, sharing how real the topic of suicide is and yet remains a kind of taboo. About how often it happens and the aftermath, the people who are left to pick up the pieces and often feel alone,” she said.

John Hancock, the main sponsor of the Boston Marathon, demonstrated its support for Camp Kita and its work by donating four race bibs to the camp for runners to use in fundraising. Through social media, Patterson learned about the camp, its cause and the chance to fundraise while running in one of the most coveted marathons in the world and was immediately inspired.

Through the application process, Patterson came to know Morgan Mosher, one of the three siblings whose father committed suicide 13 years ago. Camp Kita is still a growing cause, offering one week in the summer for these kids whose loved ones have left them and the goal of the fundraising is to make that week a tuition-free creative, therapeutic outlet of games, canoeing, camp fires and other camp activities.

In speaking with Morgan Mosher, Patterson recalls one particular quote from an 11-year-old girl who had just gone through the experience of losing a parent. At the end of her week at the camp, the girl came to Mosher and said, “I feel like I grew taller this week.”

“Obviously, that was a metaphor for that girl saying she felt like a big weight had been lifted. For her to be able to use that language and express that thought is big.”

Patterson’s fundraising goal for Camp Kita is $9,500 and it’s going well so far. She’s raised over $3,000 at this point and is looking for corporate sponsorships. In addition to Patterson, Camp Kita has three other team members and so far the team as a whole has raised over $10,000.

If anyone in the community wants more information on Camp Kita, they can find it at www.campkita.com. To donate to Patterson’s effort, visit https://www.crowdrise.com/campkitaboston2016/fundraiser/shelbypatterson.

There’s a long New England winter still looming out there to be overcome before Patterson will join the other 30,000 runners who step off from Hopkinton Green in April. In the meantime, she’ll be busy training and hoping to improve on her personal best marathon time of 3:50 that she ran in Providence. If you see her around, give her a wave and a few words of encouragement as she nears her goal to run for Camp Kita and to run well.

Camp Kita is from the Abenaki–Penobscot language and it means “to listen.”

The cause speaks for itself.

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