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Looking for HOPE helped her give it to others

Coping with suicide can be painful to think about, but it’s a reality for many individuals, including Shelly Medema. In 2013, her father took his own life at the age of 66, and through the shock and grief of that tragic experience, suicide awareness and prevention became part of her story.

Shelly has been at Wellmark for 29 years and is an Iowa Group Sales Executive Account Service Representative in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She has always felt donating and volunteering was an important way for her to give back to the community when she could. However, when her dad passed away, she needed support. Shelly found a group that she went to for many years after his death to learn from, and eventually help others who lost a loved one to suicide.

“I was hesitant to share with anyone that he had taken his life,” said Shelly. “I was afraid he would be judged, and I wanted him to be remembered as the kind, intelligent and funny person he was. I joined the HOPEwalk Committee with the intent to help destigmatize the topic of mental health and suicide.”

Every Life Matters

HOPEwalk is a Cedar Rapids Community Suicide Awareness Walk that raises awareness and funds for suicide prevention through Honor, Openness, Prevention and Education (HOPE). Shelly deeply regretted not seeing signs that her dad’s mental health had deteriorated.

“Before this topic touched my life, I never really thought much about it,” she said. “As I struggled to cope with my own shock and grief, I wanted to learn more about suicide and the myths and stigma associated with mental health. I wanted to make an impact.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention External Site, suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, with 45,979 deaths in 2020. That is approximately one death every 11 minutes. And the number of people who think about or attempt suicide is even higher.

Volunteering and promoting connectedness

Shelly has been a committee member with HOPEwalk for the last five years. She meets with the committee monthly throughout the year to plan the annual walk, review grant applications for approval, discuss the budget and more.

“We plan additional events throughout the year like silent auctions, guest speakers and movies,” she said. “However, our primary focus is the planning and implementation of the annual walk, which is our main fundraiser. The funding raised is spent locally in the community to raise awareness and help prevent suicide.”

Shelly makes a point to record her Personal Volunteer Time through The Wellmark  Foundation’s BluesCare GivingSM program, which she says is easy to use.

“The Wellmark Foundation makes it very easy to submit volunteer hours and matching gift requests, which only take a few minutes to complete,” she said. “I’m proud to work for a company that’s invested in the community. When I tell my friends and family that The Wellmark Foundation provides up to $10,000 per year to match or donate, they’re always impressed by that generosity. If you are passionate about something, you can make a much bigger impact with The Wellmark Foundation than you can alone.”

About BluesCare Giving

The Wellmark Foundation’s BluesCare Giving program External Site provides necessary funding to eligible nonprofit organizations. Employees may earn the opportunity to designate dollars by volunteering or through a dollar-for-dollar matching gift donation to a qualified nonprofit organization of their choice. To find out if your nonprofit organization is eligible for the BluesCare Giving program, contact Send Email.