Successful weekend in Seneca Falls as Coalition makes several new contacts

It was a powerful weekend for everyone involved.

The Seneca County Suicide Prevention Coalition took part in this year’s “It’s a Wonderful Life Festival,” which was held in Seneca Falls over the weekend. The festival is based around Frank Capra’s classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which is an uplifting tale about community, coming together, and perseverance.

That participation included tabling, and even walking in the parade, which saw significant turnout – despite the cold weather. The Coalition received a ton of positive feedback from those attending the festival – including a donation made to the Coalition by Karolyn Grimes. The actor, who played Zuzu Bailey is an annual staple in the festivities. “It’s a difficult and sad topic, but with the hope and joy of the weekend it provided a great opportunity to reach people,” said Brenda Black, a Coalition member who tabled during the festival. “The outpouring of support and people wanting to share their story really moved me.”

When Grimes approached the Coalition’s representatives she told a story about her own loss to suicide. “Zuzu came to the table and asked if she could donate because her brother took his life,” recounted Black. “It really hit home that this doesn’t just impact the average person – but those from every walk of life.”

“The story behind the movie is so much more than just about a festival or a specific holiday,” explained Rhonda Jasper, who serves as Executive Director of the United Way, and is a ranking member of the Suicide Prevention Coalition. “The truth is that many people struggle through the holidays and anything we can do to help spread understanding and encourage others to reach out to those who may be struggling can make a real difference.”

That outreach effort was organized largely by Natalee Carroll, the Coalition’s outreach committee chair, who saw the festival as a great opportunity to connect with residents near-and-far.

“I was struck by how willing people were to share their stories once they learned that there was a suicide prevention presence at the festival,” explained Carroll, who tabled at the Trinity Church on Saturday – as thousands arrived in Seneca Falls for the festival and 5K race.

Carroll recounted one visitor who shared her story. “She shared with me that she lost her mom to suicide many years back, and when support groups were brought to her attention – she wasn’t sure if it was the right fit,” Carroll explained. “When we told her about her the support groups she was resistant because it has been so long, but then she realized that she could share and help others with the healing process that she had been through.”

It was interactions like these that made the weekend a successful one in Seneca Falls.

“The festival organizers were not only willing to have us participate, but they were excited about it. I was incredibly grateful for the support, flexibility, and enthusiasm from the Its A Wonderful Life festival organizers,” Carrol added.

The festival marks a new opportunity for local residents to get involved with the Coalition’s broader efforts heading into 2019. “We’re always seeking new members, volunteers, and interested parties to help spread the word,” added Josh Durso, co-chair of the Coalition’s steering committee. “This is a difficult topic, but one that requires focus, energy, and a community approach.”

The Seneca County Suicide Prevention Coalition will hold a general membership meeting, open to the public, on Dec. 18, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. at the conference room on the second floor of the County Office Building at 1 DiPronio Dr.