A father's fight to raise suicide awareness
KAUKAUNA - Mike Hopfensperger would do anything to have one more conversation with his son. He knows exactly what he'd say.
"That we love you and we miss you," he said.
The pain is always present, nearly a decade after his son, Shane, took his own life at the age of 25.
"He was a good kid, smart kid, had everything going for him," said Hopfensperger.
Shane was an avid outdoorsman, a stand-out high school athlete and an assistant project manager on the 2001-2003 Lambeau Field renovation project. Hopfensberger believes the pressure while working on a building at the University of Chicago became too much to bear for his son. A deputy delivered that dreaded knock on his door.
"You just stopped in your tracks and then you're numb. You know, how could this happen?"
Hopfensberger says, "Many times you say, 'What did I do wrong?' And it's nothing you did wrong. He was mentally sick."
Through his grief, Hopfensberger has found healing by helping create the Walk for Suicide Awareness in Kaukauna.
He says, "I think one of the things parents are afraid of, or anybody, their loved one is going to be forgotten. So we try and keep him alive."
The walk, now in its fourth year, also raises funds for the Center for Suicide Awareness. This year, founder Barb Bigalke is using the money to purchase a new tool to save lives.
"We have quite a few hot lines, but we know there's a different generation out there. They text everything, and so we're in the process of purchasing software that people can text in and crisis responders can then respond to it," explains Bigalke.
Kaukauna would become just the 31st in the nation to offer a text messaging crisis center.
"It's sort of talking in the language they know."
Bigalke says it's just another reason people should sign-up for the 5K, to support Team Shaner and other families in their efforts to prevent more tragedies and honor those lost.
Hopfensberger says, "With family, friends and you know our faith, we're able to move on, because we know that's what he would want us to do."
To learn more about the Walk for Suicide Awareness including how to register, click here -
To contact the Center for Suicide Awareness about how to receive training to become a volunteer with the new text messaging crisis center, click here -