LITTLE SILVER, NJ - The sports rivalries among three Two River schools are legendary. It is always a super sweet victory when the Red Bank Regional (RBR) Buccaneers can defeat Red Bank Catholic (RBC) Caseys or Rumson Fair Haven’s (RFH) Bulldawgs, and vice versa for all three teams, two of which are located on Ridge Road, and the other not too far away. However, seven students from all three schools have recently collaborated to use that rivalry to generate a very positive event. The Ridge Road Run for Suicide Prevention is a 5K in Rumson to raise money and awareness and promote teenage mental wellness. The 5K is scheduled to take place in Rumson on Sunday, April 15. Proceeds will benefit the national organization The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention and the local Mental Health Association of Monmouth County. Information on the event can be found on the website www.RidgeRoadRun.org.
The motivation for the event was derived from the students’ desire to do something positive in wake of the sudden loss of peers, a phenomena which has touched all their communities.
Event originator RBR Senior Michael Eulner of Shrewsbury explains, “We wanted to make our communities a better place. Over the years, all of us were affected by this and we thought that we could only do something to support one another if we do it together. We said we wanted to put aside our school rivalry for a good cause.”
RBR Principal Risa Clay has counseled Michael on the event. Principal Clay is the founder of the RBR SOURCE, the RBR’s School Based Youth Services Program which provides a safe place for teens on the school campus to come and unburden their problems. It employs professional mental counselors who also service the greater community in time of tragedy.
She states of the students’ efforts, “I think the initiative is incredible as it is student driven. They saw something, they acted on it and they are making it happen.”
The student leaders include Michael and his classmates, fellow senior Thomas Lloyd from his hometown of Shrewsbury, RBR sophomore Claudia Kelly, Little Silver, RFH seniors Teddy Sourlis, Rumson and Ellie Gibney, Fair Haven and RBC seniors Lily Salcedo, Little Silver and Courtney Carroll of Middletown.
Ellie comments, “There are so many societal pressures on teenagers with parents, coaches, peers and social media.”
Claudia adds, “I think it is something we have all been affected by and can relate to.”
Lily Salcedo states, “This helps us come together as one community to speak for a cause and hopefully change the face of it and make people speak out if they are having problems.”
The students pooled their numerous talents—Michael created a website and, with the advice of a professional organizer of running events, provided a donation link to the page. The site and has already attracted numerous business and individual sponsors, with several levels of sponsorships available including a family sponsorship of $150. Runners are charged a $25 participation fee. The students are also promoting the 5K through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They sought support in the business community for the venture and have worked with their schools administration for guidance and support.
RBC student assistant counselor Kathy Booth explains that every school is taking on a specific part of the planning. RBC has staged special Casey Compassion Days to sign up participants. The Casey’s PTA is very involved and is providing food for the event and aiding the school in getting the word out.
She adds, “We have all been affected by loss and I think this is a great way to turn tragedy into triumph.”
The organizers hope to create a very festive atmosphere with RBR and RFH bands playing together and RBC singers performing the national anthem. In addition to the official 5K, which will traverse the town of Rumson, a mile fun run is planned as well as a kiddie dash on the RFH football field.
RFH Superintendent Pete Righi hosted several of the organizing meetings which began early in 2018 and was instrumental in arranging for the logistics of the event.
He states, “The thought is that maybe a different community can host this every year,” he adds, “I know the idea of the event is already exploding. It is a great cause and these communities are super supportive of their kids. It is going to be a great event.”
RFH senior Teddy Sourlis comments, “I think that one of the biggest impacts of this day is that we are trying to ensure that people who attend know it is okay to speak out and share their emotions with others. Keeping emotions under the surface can be dangerous and we want everyone to realize that it is okay to not be okay,” he adds, We are hoping that “The Ridge Road Run” can not only leave a lasting impression on its attendees, but also bring awareness to the entire Two River community on such a paramount cause that affects many people throughout their lives.”