FOND DU LAC (NBC 26) — One Fond du Lac woman is on a mission to raise awareness about mental through running. For her family, it's a cause that hits close to home.
Cheryl Louden is a 2nd grade teacher at Evans Elementary School in Fond du Lac. She lost her sister Kelly in February of last year after a battle with depression. Growing up, she says the two were incredibly close.
"Growing up, we were a very close family. Very supportive parents. We were only 18 months apart and she was my big sister so you look up to her,” Louden said.
Louden describes her as hardworking, recalling memories of her helping out with their family greenhouse business as a child. She was a mother of two boys, athletic, and she loved to spend time outdoors. Since Cheryl and her sister had children the same age, she says they loved to go on camping trips together.
"Her and her boys and me and my girls we would just tent, camp and just visit and sit around the campfire and just enjoy each others company,” Louden said.
She says Kelly was athletic and always active, frequently running 5Ks and mud runs. But like so many others, she was struggling with mental health issues.
"Probably 10 years ago is when she started struggling and she just got further and further into depression and she didn’t get the help that she needed," Louden said. "When she passed away, it was heart breaking because it leaves so many answers unanswered.”
After her sister's death, Cheryl soon began running as a way to cope. It was always her sister's dream to run a marathon one day, something that Cheryl says stuck with her. She wanted to see her dream through for her.
“When she passed away and cleaning up her belongings in her house, I found books on Boston and books that had been autographed out to her with inspirational messages,” Louden said.
It was a dream her sister never finished. But now, Cheryl is finishing it for her. She qualified for the Boston marathon at the Community First Fox Cities marathon in September.
She will be heading to Boston with her husband and daughters and will compete on April 18th. As she prepares for the marathon, she is raising money for YScreen, an organization that provides mental health screenings to youth in Fond Du Lac County. YScreen is offered at 12 different public, private, and charter high schools and through Juvenile Court Services.
Cheryl is asking for donations of $1 per mile of the Boston marathon, for a total of $26, or anything that donors can give. She is running not only for her sister, but for all those who struggle with mental health. She hopes that in doing so, she might make a difference in someone else's life.
“I know that my sister would still be here today if she had the help of a program such as YScreen," Louden said. "Even if I reach one student or even if I reach one person and prevent one death or help people to be successful, my mission’s been accomplished.”
You can donate to YScreen online hereor by sending a check made out to FDL Area YScreen FDLSD to: Evans Elementary School ℅ Cheryl Louden, 140 S. Peters Ave., Fond du Lac, WI 54935.