Wings of Hope will address suicide prevention and awareness Sunday at Frontier Field in Rochester.
The Rochester Red Wings will host Norfolk at 1:35 p.m. but the afternoon will focus on more than baseball. Wings of Hope is a collaboration among the Red Wings, Villa of Hope and Sharing Kindness. Wings General Manager Dan Mason and Villa of Hope President & CEO Christina Gullo discussed the collaboration and the importance of addressing suicide publicly Friday during News 8 at Noon.
“We’re so excited to have this partnership going,” said Gullo. “It’s a real significant opportunity to bring awareness to mental health and suicide. It’s not just in our community, this really is a national issue.”
Mason explained how the Red Wings helped inspire the collaboration. “Jason Wheeler, one of our pitchers who started the season with us, his brother-in-law committed suicide this off-season. He approached me shortly after opening day about doing some kind of event to raise awareness and raise funds for suicide prevention. He wanted to use his status of a professional baseball player to raise awareness of this situation that’s going on in our society. I give him a lot of credit. He’s a tremendous pitcher, but he’s an even better person. As what happens in baseball, guys get traded. He ended up getting traded to the Dodgers, and then getting traded to the Orioles. As fate would have it, he’s going to be here anyway as we’re playing his team on Sunday.”
A recent CDC report revealed among boys ages 15-19, the suicide rate has gone up 30 percent since 2007. For girls in that same age range, the rate has doubled. For all people between the ages of 15-24, suicide is now the number two killer.
“It’s something we need to pay attention to,” Gullo said. “I think bringing it to the forefront is important, and to know that there are ways to help prevent suicide and mental health issues that could become very serious issues. One is relationships with youth. You want to make sure there are meaningful relationships in that youth’s life, whether it’s teachers, coaches or other family members – people who they feel that they can really connect with and open up with if they need somebody to talk to that they can trust. Activities that build confidence are really important. For them to be able to be with other peers that don’t have these self-harm at-risk behaviors, and to be able to have more normalized relationships and connections, that is significant.”
There are many community resources for people experiencing mental illness or suicidal thoughts, including at the Villa of Hope. “We have a behavioral health clinic that specializes in chemical dependency and mental health,” noted Gullo. “It’s located at our Jay Street location, and anybody is able to access that clinic.”
Sunday’s game will help raise money for the Villa of Hope and Sharing Kindness, the program started by Wheeler’s in-laws. “We’re going to be doing a jersey auction,” Mason said. “So we’re going to be wearing a special jersey that day that all the players will sign after the ball game. We’ll auction those off throughout the game. We’ll also be wearing a special hat which will be auctioned off and signed by all the players. We’ve got some other items such as a Joe Mauer autographed bat. There’s a chance to be a ‘Bat Kid’ in 2018. There’s all kinds of great things we’ll be auctioning off throughout the ball game to raise awareness and funds for something that is really needed.”
For tickets to the game, call (585) 423-WING, or click here.
For more information about Villa of Hope, click here.