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Bikers to rumble through Sidney in 6th Annual Suicide Awareness Poker Run

Be Here Sidney seeks to encourage residents to know they are not alone

SIDNEY – The second leading cause of death for Nebraskans aged 10-years-old to 44-years-old is suicide, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (NDHHS). That's roughly 1-in-13 Nebraskan deaths each year, or one person dies by suicide every 32 hours in the state.

Bikers from around the county and Panhandle area will boot kickstands up on June 17 and ride from Sidney to Chappell in its 6th Annual Suicide Awareness Poker Run to help reduce these statistics.

After registration from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., in Historic Downtown Sidney at the Silver Dollar Bar and Grill, 913 Illinois St., Sidney, Nebraska, bikers will take off south into Colorado for a nearly two hour ride.

The second stop on the ride is The Hot Spot, 620 Main St., Peetz, Colorado; stop three is at Henry's Pub and Club, 138 S. Front St., Sterling, Colorado; stop four is R.D.'s Tavern, 125 Main Ave., Sedgwick, Colorado; and the final stop is The Rusty Bucket, 650 2nd St., Chappell, Nebraska.

There will be a 50/50 auction, a poker event which will cost $15 per hand and $25 per couple and other activities as well as merchandise designated to raising funds for the local nonprofit to be able to put back into the community to address issues which affect suicide rates.

The organization, Be Here Sidney, a nonprofit seeking to bring awareness to suicides and offer solutions, hopes to get its message out to residents they are not alone and there is an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on and a compassionate heart to help them find healing.

Be Here member and Suicide Awareness Poker Run Event Organizer Lavon Hajek said this years' goal isn't based on trying to increase the number of riders they saw last year, but rather, it's, “One more rider – one more dollar – and reach one more person than we did last year.”

Last year, Hajek said the organization saw roughly 110 riders along their path who helped them raise awareness, money and other various sponsorships to be able to put that money back into the community with various events.

Some things the group is attempting to address is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), various mental health issues such as tunneling, the need to control something and depressive moods that can lead to self harming behaviors.

As of December 2022, according to comparative data provided by national, state and local health officials, suicide is the second leading cause of death for residents aged 10 to 24 years old; second leading cause of death for residents aged 25 to 34 years old; second leading cause of death for residents aged 35 to 44 years old; seventh leading cause of death for residents aged 45 to 54 years old; tenth leading cause of death for residents aged 55 to 64 years old; and the 19th leading cause of death for resident aged 65 and older.

Cheyenne County and the City of Sidney has a number of suicide prevention resources locally and through the state.

Those resources include:

24-hour resources:

Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255;

Crisis Text Line text 741-741;

Nebraska Family Helpline 1-888-866-8660;

Vets 4 Warriors 1-855-838-8255;

Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255.

Mental and Behavioral Health Providers:

Destiny Counseling 308-254-0737;

Heart Land Counseling 308-284-6767;

Inspirit Counseling 308-430-1944;

Kaurna Counseling 308-249-7853;

Mental Health Alliance 308-225-6572;

Open Door Counseling 308-225-4335;

Options in Psychology 308-632-8547;

Region One Behavioral Health 308-635-3173;

Sidney Veterans Affairs 308-254-1114.

“Part of the way we heal – is through the poker run,” Hajek explained.

Hajek further explained they began the poker run seven years ago as a way to honor the life of a family friend they lost to suicide.

“Each year, on Father's Day weekend, we ride – personally – in his honor, but I think everyone who rides with us, they ride for someone they love,” Hajek stated. “So I think its a different reason for everyone because someone's life touched their lives.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a recent Rasmussen Report, just slightly more than half of Americans have lost someone to suicide, or 1-in-2.5 citizens; that's an increase of 30% from 2018, data from during the pandemic years are not yet conclusively available. However, the CDC notes while overall suicide rates appeared to have dropped during the pandemic months, teen suicide rates increased during this time period. The agency reports suicide rates per populace among Americans aged 10 years old to 64 years old nearly doubled in 2021 and was was an increase of 36% from 2000.

According to the CDC, these rates tend to be elevated in rural communities, workers in certain industrial industries like mining, over populated urban areas, among veterans and among young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or other.

New this year, the Poker Run is now its own nonprofit and will be keeping the funds in the county to go toward helping residents more.

Previously, the organization donated to funding to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) in Lincoln. However, after seeing how little profits are returned to the county to address suicide prevention, the organization decided to make their own nonprofit, “Be Here.”

Hajek says the message is simple, “Be here, as in here with those who need us – which can come in a variety of forms.”

Their mission statement, “Be (T)Here as a resource, Be (W)Here we are needed,” means showing up for people when they are in need. Hajek says it also means providing resources to those who are hurting but most importantly, 'Be Here' means to simply be available to people and to check on them.

A vital role in the up coming Poker Run and fundraiser, is to visually promote how the community and nonprofit is here for Cheyenne County and Sidney residents.

In 2021, the organization raised roughly $10,000 and in 2022, they raised roughly $14,000, according to Hajek.

Since then, the nonprofit has been able to provide a number of services to residents, including bringing in Amberley Snyder to give an inspirational speech about perseverance and overcoming tragedy. Snyder is a championship barrel racer, who also competed in pole bending and breakaway roping. However, in 2010, tragedy struck and she became paralyzed from her waist down following a car crash. On January 10, 2010, while driving from Utah to the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado, when she left a gas station in Rawlins, Wyoming, and nearly 10 miles down the road from the gas station, took her eyes off the road to check the map. In doing so, she drifted into the other lane, over-corrected and her truck slid off the road, rolling seven ties before stopping. She was thrown from her truck and slammed into a fence post where she crushed her T-12 vertebra.

Today, Snyder speaks all over the nation about her story and hasn't let her tragedy consume her life – in fact, she has done the opposite. With physical therapy and a seat belt on her saddle, Snyder was able to resume riding horses and continues to compete in rodeos. She has gone on to win a number of titles since then and was even portrayed in a Netflix biopic, “Walk. Ride. Rodeo.” which was released March 8, 2019; she later stared in the third season of critically acclaimed 'Yellowstone.'

In March of this year, 'Be Here' brought Snyder to Sidney to speak before youth and they have brought in other motivational speakers in hopes of providing youth with positive messages. The organization is hoping to have another motivational speaker engagement sometime in September or October.

Every year, 'Be Here' also participates in a Suicide Awareness Walk with Sidney High School, and that's only one event of many others they hope to promote more in the future. During Suicide Awareness Month, in September, 'Be Here' plans to have a number of other events planned for the community, to be announced at a later time.

“Everyone has their own someone – they have their own reason to promote suicide awareness,” Hajek explained. “Our goal is about reaching more of our community members and letting them know – they are not alone and that we are here for them, unconditionally.”

'Be Here' wants to invite all residents to join the Sixth Annual Suicide Awareness Poker Run with them on June 17. Registration is the day of, and the event is open to everyone, not just bikers.

“If a resident doesn't have a motorcycle, they are absolutely free to join us in whatever vehicle they have,” Hajek said. “We just want to reach one more resident with our message – to impact one more life.”

Those interested in joining the Poker Run, or who may have questions are encouraged to call Poker Run organizer John Hajek at 308-250-1562. Those interested in helping the organization, or who wish to make donations may also do so by calling John Hajek, or can email the organization at [email protected], and by visiting their Facebook age at @beheresidney.

“No story should end too soon – that's our bigger message with 'Be Here',” Hajek added. “Every life matters.”

The Sidney Sun-Telegraph would like to remind residents to reach out to someone: a friend, a family member, a coworker, a community member, 'Be Here', the VA, a licensed therapist or any other trusted individual in the community if you are experiencing a crisis. In collaboration with the 'Be Here' message, the Sun-Telegraph is committed to being here for our community and is available to direct residents to interventionists and resources.


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