‘Always find a reason to smile’

Casey Szmata and her niece, Chantielle, Fortin share a hug at the walk.

Suicide prevention events held across North Peace region

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

The Always Find a Reason to Smile Suicide Awareness & Prevention Foundation held several events to spread help and hope across the Peace as part of Suicide Prevention Awareness Week.

‘Always Find a Reason to Smile’ is a tattoo that my daughter Morgan had on her foot,” Casey Szmata explains.

“She died by suicide on Dec. 22, 2012 in our home. Our lives were shattered.

“As her mom, I went through hell over the next two years, ending up in hospital on suicide watch. It has been a very long journey to healing, but I have come to find, through my beautiful daughter’s memory, a passion that is my soul. Suicide Awareness and Prevention.”

As a results, she and the family started a foundation, Always Find a Reason to Smile – Suicide Awareness & Prevention.

“We are a non-profit organization trying to eliminate the epidemic of suicide.”

The foundation offers survivor bereavement groups, and helps people find professional assistance.

The 2019 “Welcoming the Light Walk” was held by the foundation at the Queen Elizabeth Park campground outside Grimshaw on Sept. 7, and included a walk at dawn in the memory of people lost to suicide.

Photos were set up at the walk as part of a memorial walk every year, where family, friends and survivors symbolically walk during the light of dawn in hopes of peace and healing.

“We had approximately 65 walkers in attendance, and a memorial of 19 souls lost to suicide. The atmosphere was somber. A lot of tears, but so, so much love. We heal by helping each other,” Szmata says.

ATCO Electric Peace River and Tim Hortons Peace River helped sponsor the walk.

Szmata also visited a different school every day, starting with Fairview High School, followed by the Grimshaw shared Catholic and public school, St. Thomas More in Fairview, the Paul Rowe junior and senior high school in Manning, and ending at Peace High on Friday in Peace River.

“We have received approval from the Peace River School Division to provide all schools with stickers to be placed in bathroom stalls [which is generally where kids and adults will go to cry when they are struggling]. These stickers contain the suicide hotline number, and words from encouragement from our group,” Szmata says.

From Sept 16-22, Tim Hortons in Peace River has chosen the charity to receive 100 per cent of the sales of their annual “Smile Cookie Campaign.”

“We are very grateful as we run our organization strictly from donations and volunteer time,” Szamata says.

“I will not let my daughter’s legacy die, nor will I allow her death to be for naught. We will save lives. Through her and with her I gather strength, and I will never give up this fight.

“You are never alone. Together we are strong,” she concludes.

A photo in memory of Morgan Szmata was placed at the walk. Photos courtesy of Casey Szmata.

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