Around 250 Baraboo High School students have shown support for the Bandana Project’s mission to promote mental health since it started this year, and now its organizers want to reach beyond the halls of the high school.

“We just wanted to get the whole community involved instead of just the Baraboo High School faculty and students,” said recent graduate Sierra Weiland-Duchow.

She and Katie Kargel brought the initiative to BHS at the beginning of the spring semester to promote awareness of mental health resources and suicide prevention. Students were encouraged to display yellow bandanas somewhere on their backpacks to indicate that they could offer support to those with mental illness.

After distributing the 200 bandanas they had ordered, Weiland-Duchow said they had to buy 100 more to keep up with demand.

And while both Weiland-Duchow and Kargel graduated last week, they’re thinking ahead for next school year. Weiland-Duchow said they’re holding a 5K run/walk Saturday to raise money to buy more bandanas for next year’s incoming freshman — and to expand the program.

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“It’s doing really well,” she said of the Bandana Project. “We have a lot of donations coming from a lot of community members, and there’s collection jars in the community for people to donate, and that’s helped out a lot — just getting bandanas and stuff for future years and getting everything lined up so it can continue to be an organization in the school. And we’ve had a lot of kids be very supportive of it.”

She’s been working with Baraboo School District activities director Jim Langkamp on a plan to introduce the Bandana Project at Jack Young Middle School this fall to give students a “preview” before they enter the high school. Helpers will give out bandanas during middle school lunch periods early next year, she said.

The two graduates will be handing over leadership of the project soon, but don’t yet know to whom, according to Weiland-Duchow.

To participate in the run/walk, register with Jim Langkamp at 608-355-3945. The next 20 run/walk participants will get a Bandana Project T-shirt with their registration.

Follow Susan Endres on Twitter @EndresSusan or call her at 745-3506.

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