MUSCATINE, Iowa–As advocates for mental health awareness and suicide prevention, the Brunson family created the Micaela’s Hope Foundation to honor their daughter, Micaela, who died from suicide. “Our family speaks openly about our daughter Micaela’s suicide in 2016 to raise awareness,” said Alma Brunson. “Because we were blindsided by Micaela’s death, we hope to prevent this from happening to another family.”
This year, Brunson began looking into holding a walk in Discovery Park to highlight the importance of suicide prevention and to support the Micaela’s Hope Foundation, which helps fund mental health programs and resources in Muscatine. When the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted Brunson’s plans, she still knew she wanted to do something.
While walking with her friend Megan Randoll, Brunson shared her original plans for holding a walk and her desire to transform it into something different. Randoll quickly started giving Brunson ideas for how she could make it happen. “In about 8 minutes, Megan had already networked and brainstormed a virtual event!” Brunson remembers.
Instead of bringing people together to share messages of encouragement, Brunson had postcards printed with the Michaela’s Hope logo that people could mail to someone who could use an uplifting message. She also had signs placed in Discovery Park, along the riverfront, at Muscatine High School, Susan Clark Junior High School, the school board office, and at the Y encouraging people to take care of their mental health and to seek help when needed. The week of Nov. 9 through 14, through a Facebook event called Miles for Micaela, Brunson encouraged people to hold a virtual walk and log the miles they walked, ran, or biked, just as they would for an in person event. She also shared information about mental health and suicide prevention on the event page in lieu of having an in-person speaker.
Encouraged by the number of people who participated in this year’s Miles for Micaela walk, Brunson hopes to expand it in future years when people can gather together again. Along with a group walk, Brunson would like to include informational booths for people of all ages to help them learn about caring for their mental health. Mental health professionals and families affected by suicide would speak, spreading important messages to everyone who attends. Brunson firmly believes that future walks will prove successful if, “we can impact just one person, if we can convince just one person to keep fighting and stay.”
If you would like to support the Miles for Micaela walk this year, you may still request postcards to send to friends and family members who could benefit from a positive message from the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine. Additionally, you may donate to the Micaela’s Hope Foundation by visiting the Community Foundation’s website.