CEDAR RAPIDS — Mental health has become a main focus in today’s world.
According to save.org, suicide takes the lives of more than 48,300 Americans per year.
Jeff Vipond’s wrestling career at Xavier High School consisted of more than 100 wins and leading the team as a captain for two years. He went on to attend the University of Iowa, but the 2016 Xavier graduate died in November 2019 after battling an anxiety disorder.
His father, Tim Vipond, created a 5K this year to honor Jeff’s legacy and to raise money and spread awareness for mental health.
“The run was a virtual run, meaning you could run a 5K anytime between October 25 to November 1, so it gave runners or walkers a chance to get out and participate for a good cause,” Tim said.
Tim had many goals with this 5K.
“I personally needed something that I could do to maybe help others that are struggling with their mental health, especially this year with COVID-19,” Tim said. “I like to run and it helps me mentally so I thought if I tried to do a virtual 5K, I could raise awareness to mental health and raise some money for Foundation 2.”
Tim was able to raise more than $12,500, sent exclusively to Foundation 2 for mental health costs. Foundation 2 is a nonprofit human service agency that helps develop youth, works to prevent suicide and helps build the foundation for stronger and healthier families and safer communities.
“I have been blessed to have many people help out with this cause, as we have five billboards throughout the city of Cedar Rapids,” he said. “Attached (was) the tagline ‘ARE YOU OK.’ Now more than ever you should ask your friends in school that question or if you see someone down.
“Sometimes all it takes is someone to listen to them or point them into the direction of Foundation 2.”
Tim wanted to spread the message that people are not alone when it comes to mental illness.
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With Jeff very involved in the Xavier wrestling program, Tim has stayed connected to the wrestlers and will do anything he can to help them out.
“The coaches have been in contact with our family throughout the year, in some cases just to check up on me, which is nice to hear from them,” Tim said. “The coaching staff has done so much for mental health awareness by having a dual meet last year focusing on mental health awareness, that included a ‘white out’ in memory of Jeff. I cannot express enough thanks for Xavier wrestling as well as the Xavier community for spreading awareness.”
Xavier wrestling coach Ryan Chambers said because of Jeff’s death he wants to bring light to the situation.
“Jeff was a very good and dedicated wrestler,” Chambers said. “He wrestled from a very young age coming up through the Future Saints Program. The death of Jeff was as if I lost a son. As a coach, you spend a lot of time with the kids and develop a great bond. Through his death, Xavier wrestling and his family are going to do whatever we can to bring awareness to mental health.”
Chambers will continue to motivate his athletes in any way he can.
“We want to inspire the wrestlers to make everyday their best,” he said. “Set goals and work to achieve them. We want the guys to look at life as if they are writing a story. Wrestling is just a small chapter of this book, but can teach you everything you need to know about yourself and how to be successful.
“Take these lessons learned in wrestling and make a difference and have fun doing so.”
The Xavier wrestlers are continuing to carry on Jeff’s legacy by working their hardest and wrestling everyday like it could be their last.
Tim’s main goal by creating the 5K is to break the stigma around mental health and remind people to ask for help if they need it. Tim will continue to spread awareness and make a difference in the community.
There are many ways one can support mental health awareness: volunteer at organizations, walk or run an individual 5K and acknowledge mental health on social media.
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Remember to check on others and make sure they are OK, especially during the holiday season. Foundation 2 also provides support any time of the day.