Run for Zach raises funds for mental health advocacy

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange Stop Suicide Advocacy Coalition held Run for Zach,its first fundraiser, on Oct. 6. The run, which honored Zach Massader, a West Orange native who died by suicide in 2018, took participants between the third and fourth holes at Rock Spring Golf Club and through the surrounding neighborhood.

Tammy Williams, the founder of the SSAC, said in a phone interview with the West Orange Chronicle on Oct. 7 that about 200 people participated, either running or volunteering at the event. Massader’s parents and other community members attended at the event and shared stories about how they have dealt with suicide and mental illness.

“The weather held off and the neighbors were out cheering them on as they ran,” Williams said. “It was a great day for it.”

The final numbers haven’t been tallied yet, but all the money raised at the event will to the coalition, which seeks to educate West Orange residents about mental health and suicide awareness. Williams said the more the topics are discussed, the easier it will be for those who need help to ask for it.

“When you start talking about it, you realize how many people you know it has affected,” she said. “We want to keep talking about it for better prevention. When your heart isn’t working properly, you go to the doctor. So when your brain isn’t working properly, you should do the same thing.”

The coalition is working with the West Orange Police Department and the West Orange Fire Department on training for dealing with mental health throughout October and November, and will be working with the school district throughout the year to educate students about mental health.

“We’re continuing to work with the first responders and closely with the school district to talk about suicide,” Williams said. “We’re going to keep working toward that goal.”

Photos Courtesy of Jacqueline Reese