A parade of classic cars will wind their way through the countryside this weekend bringing attention to the quiet struggle of suicide.
Kimmie’s Kruise is bringing together motoring enthusiasts in memory of Kimberly Rose “Kimmie” Stronach, who died at 32, after committing suicide.
“It was really her father — Kim’s dad — and her brother, who is my husband, that wanted to try to do something,” said Judainne Stronach, “and since we have old cars, that’s something that seemed like it would be the perfect thing to do and so we started driving around the countryside over the last couple of years. And she loved jumping in cars with them.”
Since their initial outing, the Stronach family has coordinated with Prevent Suicide Columbia County, in the hopes of bringing more people with them this year —whatever their vehicles — and raising money for suicide prevention.
“Last year we had 55 or 57 vehicles, and that’s all I counted of vehicles,” said Stronach, “it didn’t count how many people where in each vehicle or were on each bike.”
The event comes at a time of exceptional awareness in part through personal accounts, following the deaths of chef and television host Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade. The announcements of those deaths, ruled suicides, within less than a week of each other, resulted in waves on the internet of shock, sympathy and pleas for those needing help to reach out and for others to reach out to those who may be struggling.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released the results of a nationwide study, finding rising suicide rates across the United States.
Between 1999 and 2016, according to CDC’s National Vital Signs, suicide rates across the country rose 25.4 percent. Measured by state, Wisconsin was noted as just above the average, with an increase of 25.8 percent.
In Columbia County, according to annual reports of the Columbia County Medical Examiner, 12 deaths were determined to be by suicide in 2015 and in 2016 Stronach was one of 14 to take their own lives.
Although suicide is often unmentioned as a cause of death in obituaries and other publications, according to the event description, “Kimberly Stronach (Kimmie) passed away from depression and suicide on November 14th 2016. The family chooses to reveal this truth and bring awareness to it in the hopes that others will choose to live.”
Prevent Suicide Columbia County encourages more open discussion of the subject and prevention by teaching QPR — Question Persuade Respond — which trains people to approach friends and loved ones who show signs of suicidal risk, asking the difficult questions and seeing that people get professional help.
Proceeds from Kimmie’s Kruise will go toward expanding this training and similar efforts to raise awareness of mental health challenges.
“There is hardly anything to help,” said Stronach of options for mental health care treatment. “They don’t make it easy with coverage or anything like that so I’m just trying to bring awareness to it and maybe some lawmaker will get the idea that we’ve got to start think it is financially easier for people to take care of themselves.”
The “kruise” will start in Poynette, leaving from the Owl’s Nest at 11 a.m., moving on to Foxy’s in Briggsville, then The Lake House in Oxford, T’s Causeway in Packwaukee, Achterber Archery in Pardeeville then back to Poynette at The Frontier.
“We back-road as much as possible because there are old cars and there are motorcycles all involved,” said Stronach, who is likely to be out in a 1966 Mustang, one of a pair owned by her and her father. “So we try to take people on a cruise that meanders around that will also take them around to places that they didn’t know existed.”