Jacob’s Run for suicide awareness
The VFW parking lot in Owaton-
na was full of motorcycles Saturday morning as bikers prepared to take part in the eighth annual Jacob’s Run.
The event grew out of a tragic event, the suicide of 15-year-old Tri- ton student Jacob Sikel.
At the time no one thought that a simple motorcycle ride would reach the people it has since the founding of Open Arms Yellow Ribbon Program.
Robert Sikel, Jacob’s father, said that after his son’s death he hoped that no other family would “have to go through this.”
Friends of Sikel organized the
first ride soon after Jacob’s death and soon after the ride Jacob’s parents and other family members went to Westminster, Colo., and completed
the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention training program.
In the years since, Sikel said, the
local Open Arms Yellow Ribbon Program has sponsored the ride each year. The money raised funds scholarships for students in Triton, Blooming Prairie, Owatonna, Med- ford, NRHEG, Grand Meadow and LeRoy-Ostrander. This past spring, Sikel said, the organization awarded
14 $500 and one $1,000 scholarships. Open Arms also gives presentations to school and other organizations interested in learning about suicide prevention.
Sikel said he speaks at each school at least once every three years so
that all students have heard the pre- sentation by the time they graduate.
On Saturday morning, the riders began gathering well before the 10:30 a.m. start time. Although it is billed as a motorcycle ride, he said, other vehicles are welcome as well.
The riders made a 165-mile circle, with several stops along the way, returning back to the VFW in late afternoon for a meal. During the day, raffle items were set up in the VFW
for both riders and the general public.
The riders came from throughout the area to support the program.
Gary Stewart of Waseca was one of the first to arrive with his motor- cycle, and by 8:30 a.m., he was at the parking lot where he was working to get his Harley looking its best.
“I’m just trying to get it cleaned up,” he said, although the vehicle already was sparkling clean.
“I try to get on all the rides,” he
said. “If it’s for a good cause, I’m for it.” It wasn’t long before Rally Witzel
roared into the lot, ready to go. Witzel was one of the early backers
of Open Arms and for the ride was
going to start out before the others in the group of “blockers” who would help the main body of bikers as they were going through inter- sections in the small towns along the route.
The ride had a personal meaning for Chris and Tami Beman and their family.
The Beman’s 17-old-son, Brandon, she explained, had died from suicide in 2017. Then this past April, the Labrador dog that had been his “best friend” died, his mother said.
It was then that 13-year-old Justin got the idea that resulted in a Golden Labrador puppy named Max being featured at the raffle.
Sealed bids would be taken for Max from Our Farm Labradors in Hayfield.
There was an undisclosed min- imum bid for the animal and any winning bidder would have to pass a background check and meet several other requirements before being allowed to purchase Max.
Max put in an appearance at the VFW before the ride began and im- mediately became the star attraction at the event.
At the conclusion of the ride the bikers returned to the VFW to enjoy a meal and learn who were the winners of the raffle items.