Evansville event by charity aiming to help kids who lost parents to suicide

Evansville event by charity aiming to help kids who lost parents to suicide
Published: Jun. 11, 2022 at 8:26 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Mae’s Way Foundation was started by a local woman who wants to help children dealing with the same trauma she suffered as a child.

Michele Gates started the Mae’s Way Foundation in February 2021. The organization is focused on helping children who have lost parents to suicide. This is something that hits close to home for Gates, since she lost her own mother to suicide when she was five.

“When you’re left behind, you just have a void that never goes away,” said Mae’s Way founder Michele Gates. “I mean, I’m 50 years old, and it just doesn’t go away. You learn to live with it, you learn to move forward, and that’s what I want to do with these resources is help those kids move forward.”

On Saturday afternoon, the foundation held the Rise Rally and Ride Poker Run Family Fun Festival, its first-ever event. It started with a motorcycle ride through Burdette Park, where riders collected playing cards along the path and the best poker hand at the end won a prize. They then had food trucks and activities for kids.

Organizers say the foundation is new enough that their main goal right now is to gather enough resources to find children who could use their help and connect them with counselors, mental health resources, and eventually camps and even scholarships.

Foundation officials say they’re working against a cultural stigma discouraging people from talking about suicide.

“It’s difficult, but I think that the more that we talk about it and the more that we bring awareness, and to let people know it’s okay to talk about it because a lot of these subjects are things that people don’t want to talk about,” said volunteer Shara Perry.

After Michele’s mother died, she went to live with her grandparents. Six years ago, her grandparents died, and she says that brought all her grief back to the surface.

As part of her healing journey, Michele wrote a children’s book, “Mae the Courageous Caterpillar,” which tells her story of overcoming grief. She also partnered with a local counselor to make a workbook and journal for kids.

She says these resources would have gone a long way for her when she was a kid.

“It would have made a huge difference to have been connected with somebody who knew what I was going through, and that’s what I want to do with Mae’s Way,” said Gates.

For those who missed Saturday’s event, Mae’s Way Foundation officials say they’re going to try and make this event a yearly occurrence going forward.

Click here for more information on Mae’s Way Foundation.

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