For many years, Bradenton's Renee Hayes couldn't tell the story.
Her father, Richard Stearns committed suicide on Nov. 6, 1998.
"I didn't talk about it for years to anyone," she said. "Mental health and suicide were stigmatized –– and they still are."
She kept her pain buried until 2007 when she heard about the Life;Story race. As she looked into the race, she read accounts by runners who had lost loved ones to suicide. She was so impressed she not only walked in the race, but she joined the planning committee for the 2008 race.
More than that, she finally let go.
"At that race (in 2007), I finally spoke in front of everyone to tell them about my father," Hayes said. "I felt immediate relief. I still miss him every day, but the people who participate in this race help me as much as I help them."
Now, 20 years after her father passed away, she plans to speak again.
"I do it every year for my father, it makes me feel closer to him," Hayes said.
The 2018 version of the Life;Story 5K/10K run to benefit Centerstone continues to raise awareness about suicide and depression and will be held Sept. 22. The semicolon in between "life" and "story" has become a symbol for people who struggle with depression, meaning that there is more to come.
Shawny Robey, the chief operating officer for Centerstone, said this year's special guest will be Kevin Hines, who will speak about his attempted suicide jump off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
While the 14-year-old race originally was held in Palmetto, it has been switched this year to Nathan Benderson Park.
“Everybody has been touched by this in some way ... it’s impossible to avoid it,” Robey said. “The most overwhelming part of the race is always how many people show up to give back. Centerstone staff members always are participating as well.”
The race should draw about 1,000 entries according to Robey.
Robey said the fundraising goal is $50,000. That money will go toward families in crisis who are utilizing mental health and addiction services at Centerstone.
“I would say the best part of the event by far is the closing ceremony,” said Robey. “The staff members will release several hundred monarch butterflies in memory of people that we have lost to suicide. It’s very emotional for everyone.”
The race is part of the Lakewood Ranch Triple Challenge, which actually is made up of four races — The Boo Run (Oct. 27), the Tidewell Turkey Trot (Nov. 17) and the Jingle Run (Dec. 21.). Runners use their best three times from the four events.