By Kara Hallissey, Staff Writer
(March 1, 2018) Snow Hill resident Jean Schrecengost and her friend, Melissa Ordway, had planned to hike the Appalachian Trail from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania, but winter weather forced them to change their route.
The duo instead headed to the Florida National Scenic Trial to raise awareness and funds for the Jesse Klump Suicide Awareness and Prevention Program.
“We hiked in New Hampshire for one day, but we were not well equipped or prepared for the winter weather. There were not many hikers [on the trail],” Schrecengost said. “We talked to most people about suicide prevention off the trail. It brought to light the stigma of suicide for me and how hiking can be a good relief to feeling melancholy.”
The women started their trek near Pensacola Beach on Dec. 20 and hiked for about 75 miles before Ordway went home for a family emergency. Schrecengost continued for another month and hiked about 600 miles to Ocala National Forest in the Juniper Springs area.
Close to $300 was raised for the Jesse Klump Suicide Awareness and Prevention Program.
The nonprofit organization’s main objective is to end the threat of suicide in Worcester County and beyond through outreach and education.
The Jesse Klump Suicide Awareness and Prevention Program hosts several community-organized events throughout the year. Each month, there is a support group meeting for those who have lost loved ones to suicide and who are having difficulty coming to terms with their grief.
Personally, Schrecengost, 37, has watched members of her family struggle with their mental health; her uncle committed suicide.
“The more we talk about it, the more we reduce the likelihood of suicide and help people seek assistance with their mental health issues,” Schrecengost said.
Ordway, 36, of Alaska, has also lost loved ones to suicide. Her 14-year-old nephew after being bullied in school and a friend who was battling post-traumatic stress disorder and frequent seizures from epilepsy both took their lives.
“I think it’s important for people to be aware and talk about these things because you never know what a person is dealing with and sometimes getting out into the wilderness and away from everyday life can help clear your head,” Ordway said.
The duo, who met about six years ago in Antarctica, also completed the Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Pine Grove portion of the Appalachian Trial, from April to July in 2013. The entire Appalachian Trial is approximately 2,181 miles.
Donations can be made directly at https://jessespaddle.donorpages.com/OntheTrailtoEndSuici or check out “On the Trail to End Suicide” on Facebook. For more information on the Jesse Klump Memorial Fund, visit www.choosetolivemaryland.org.