GARDINER – On Sept. 20, the Big Bear Stampede at the south end of Paradise Valley will for the second year raise awareness of depression and suicide prevention in Park County.
The 5K and 8K races will be held outside of Gardiner, offering runners expansive views of Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding mountains. On Friday, Sept. 19 at 6:30 p.m., Victoria Maxwell will present a special pre-race event at the Gardiner Community School.
Maxwell, an award-winning actress who suffers from bipolar and anxiety disorders, will present her talk “Crazy for Life” about accepting and living with a psychiatric disorder.
The Big Bear Stampede was created last year to honor the life of Gardiner local Geoff Faerber who took his own life in September 2011, after a prolonged fight with depression. Faerber was the owner of the Flying Pig Adventure Company and was an avid runner, cyclist and skier.
“We simply tried what we knew, which was to encourage him to visit a psychiatrist,” according to a press release from Faerber’s family. “We had no idea what else to do. The community was shocked with his death, as the community knew Geoff as very outgoing and charismatic – not depressed.”
Montana’s suicide rate has been near the top in the nation for the past three decades and Park County – with only 16,000 residents – experiences 6-10 suicides per year.
The Big Bear Stampede’s mission is to create awareness of depression as a true illness and sponsor educational efforts in the schools and communities of Park County. The organization has also brought counselors and trainers on suicide prevention to speak with teachers in the Gardiner community.
“The Big Bear Stampede wants to make it OK to ask for help and to talk about the illness,” according to the press release.
This year’s race is also part of Absaroka-Beartooth Fall Fun Run Series, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Wilderness Act. “The Race Around the A-B” is series of five races in communities around the wilderness area.
“I’ve done a lot of trail runs,” said Nick Ricardi, Big Bear Stampede course designer. “I don’t think it’s more difficult than anything out there, but [it’s] as hard as what I’ve seen.”
Visit bigbearstampede.org for more information, a schedule of events and resources for dealing with depression.