Be Great Today 5k 2013


Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24.
About 4,600 young people take their own lives each year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The “Be Great Today 5K” was created in hopes of raising awareness and lowering that statistic in Greencastle.
In May 2011, DePauw University lost a member of its community when first-year Marshall Mathew took his own life. In the two years since Mathew’s passing, approximately 300 people have participated in the annual “Be Great Today 5K” events for suicide awareness.
Two of Mathew’s friends, senior Stephanie Sharlow and Jimmy Kirkpatrick ’13, wanted to draw a positive from a devastating circumstance.
“We were both really affected by it,” Sharlow said. “Marshall was one of the best people I ever knew.”
And so, in June 2011, Sharlow and Kirkpatrick began planning the first race, encouraging the DePauw community to “Be Great Today.”
The name of the race comes from Mathew; it was his personal motto.
“He was a very positive and motivational person. His trademark was ‘Be Great Today,'” Sharlow said.
Now in its third year, the race has become easier to plan, though no less meaningful. With Family Weekend beginning today, Sharlow, who is co-coordinating with senior Ashley Bauer this year, said she thinks the planning is on track.
Bauer was in charge of marketing the first two years, so both are familiar with the process.
Each year, the University must approve the race, and fundraising begins in the summer. Students on the executive board for the race visit businesses around Greencastle and request donations, largely in the form of gift cards for the raffle. Among the gift cards available to win this year in a raffle are Casa Grande, Monical’s Pizza, Starbucks and Eli’s Books.
For Sharlow, delegation has proven to be key, as she is doing an internship with The Today Show in New York City. Much like the first year she co-coordinated the race, she is planning from a distance. Although she is far from the race, the issue remains close to Sharlow’s heart.
“Depression and suicide are so prevalent in young people, and it’s a permanent solution for a temporary problem,” she said. “It’s an illness people can overcome.”
The race route runs through the Nature Park. WGRE has teamed up with the race and will be playing music during the event. Check-in begins at 7 a.m. and the race starts at 8 a.m.
One loyal attendee is Mathew’s mother, Susan Mathew. She has been hugely supportive since the race’s inception.
“The 5K means hope and…it means love to me,” Mrs. Mathew said. “Nothing will fix the hole in my heart, but it adds so much grace to the journey to know what [Stephanie and Jimmy] have set in motion.”
Mrs. Mathew said, “Be Great Today” means, “You put your best, most constructive self forward and when the sun goes down, knowing that it’s been a better day because you did that.”
Through the event, Mathew’s signature phrase and positive attitude continue to help and to inspire people.
“For me, it means striving to be the best person you can be for that day, and focusing on [taking things] one day at a time,” said Bauer, Mathews’ friend and a co-coordinator for this year’s race.
Though Mathew is gone, his mantra of “Be Great Today” lives on to help those on DePauw’s campus who are living with depression or suicidal thoughts and those who need help, Kirkpatrick said.
“Stephanie and I wanted to bring suicide prevention out of the dark and into the mainstream,” Kirkpatrick said. “People are ashamed to talk about it.”
The preparation for the race is not simple, and was especially difficult in its first year. First, Sharlow and Kirkpatrick had to decide how to use the money they raised. The two looked for an existing charity in the Greencastle area.
When they discovered a lack of suicide prevention in Putnam County, they sought to change it.
After meeting with Elaine Peck, head of the Putnam County Community Foundation, the Sharlow and Kirkpatrick, with Peck’s help, started a new endowment dedicated to suicide prevention.
The endowment, funded by donations and race registration fees, provides training in recognizing depression and suicidal tendencies, especially to the faculty and staff at DePauw. Sharlow said she also hopes to incorporate speaker events as part of the fund’s outreach within the next few years.
After deciding how to use the money, Sharlow and Kirkpatrick began planning for the first race.
“I have no idea how Jimmy and I did it,” Sharlow said. “We really flew by the seat of our pants.”
Both had internships in different states at the time, so the majority of the planning was done through Skype and e-mail. Despite the distance and inexperience, the first “Be Great Today 5K” was held during Family Weekend in September 2011.
“It was a really emotional first race because it provided a lot of closure,” Sharlow said.
That first race raised over $20,000, which the Putnam County Community Foundation told them would sustain the fund for over 20 years. The second year was just as successful.
“We had a lot of donations from all over the country,” Sharlow said.
She said the event has also inspired people reach out through social media to donate, participate or just talk about suicide prevention.