Mrs. Colorado United States leads walk at Glimmer of Hope event in Greeley to raise awareness about suicide | MyWindsorNow.com

Mrs. Colorado United States leads walk at Glimmer of Hope event in Greeley to raise awareness about suicide

Nikki Work
nwork@greeleytribune.com

Kimberly Reece, this year's Mrs. Colorado United States, smiled widely as she talked about her four daughters at the Glimmer of Hope suicide awareness event. The low evening sun glinted off her crown and the crystals lining her sash, and the golden light highlighted her short blonde hair.

The Broomfield woman, now in her late 30s, joked about the difficulties of raising four girls, two of whom are teenagers. One daughter, Avery, is 11 and in sixth grade. She smiled even wider when she brought up Avery. Avery is the reason she came to Greeley for the event earlier this month at Bittersweet Park. Avery, not another appearance as a beauty queen, is what led her to lead the crowd through the 3K walk and release a handful of purple balloons.

North Range Behavioral Health's Suicide Education and Support Services organized the seventh annual event, which drew a crowd of about 140, to spread awareness about the problem of suicide in Weld County. In 2014, 54 Weld County residents committed suicide, according to North Range. Most of the people who attended the event were impacted by suicide or had lost someone to it, said Caitlin Larson, North Range's marketing associate.

When Avery Reece was 8 years old, she lost her beloved uncle Michael. They'd been close, even during his ongoing problems with addiction and suicide attempts. After he got clean and tried to turn his life around, Michael died from pancreatic cancer. Avery, who was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at a young age, didn't know how to cope with the grief.

She tried cutting her arms with a knife, jumping from the roof of a garage and drowning herself by putting her head in the toilet bowl and flushing. Her Asperger's masked the suicide attempts. Kimberly and her husband Adam thought Avery was just acting out. They didn't understand her sorrow until the school counselor called.

It was devastating for Reece. She felt guilty for misreading the signs. Then she realized she needed to take the attention off of her own guilt and help Avery heal.

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Avery started going to therapy multiple times a week and had to sleep with her oldest sister, Rylie, so she wouldn't be alone at night. Her parents took her to Uncle Michael's grave several times a week.

"The things that kids don't get is that it's a permanent thing, it's not a solution," Reece said. "She thought that was how she was going to see my brother-in-law again. 'If I go to heaven, then I'll see him.'"

Reece, a registered nurse, knows that the travails of her little girl are just symptoms of a larger problem. She works in pediatric areas and sees children in the hospital after trying to harm themselves.

Usually, people don't even think suicide affects young children, she said.

"A lot of people don't know that it is something that's real and that it can be (at) any age," Reece said. "You don't realize how much a little kid can hurt."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the third leading cause of death in children age 10-14. According to a study of national data through the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, between 1993 and 2012, an average of 33 children 5-11 years old committed suicide per year.

Though Reece's main platform through her term as Mrs. Colorado United States is autism awareness, she champions any children's issues, especially one that came so close to tearing her family apart.

It's been three years since all of that. Now Reece's worries aren't with her daughter writing suicide notes, rather the letters she and her puppy-love boyfriend write to each other. She doesn't worry if her daughter will get the chance to grow up, but about how to pay for college for the 11-year-old girl who wants to be an environmental engineer so she can save the world.

"She's doing good," Reece said. "We're doing good."

For help

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, take action now by calling North Range at (970) 347-2120 or the statewide crisis hotline, 1-844-493-TALK (8255). You can also call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255). Find more information at http://www.suicidepreventioncolorado.org/weld-county.html. For information on suicide education programs and for those whose lives are touched by suicide, call North Range at 970-313-1089.

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Suicide warning signs

• Serious depression

• Obvious stress or worry

• Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness

• Comments about death

• Difficulty concentrating and making decisions

• Giving away prized possessions

• Preoccupation with death or dying

• Sudden drop in school or work performance

• Change in appetite or energy

• Change in sleeping habits

• Loss of interest in favorite things

• Isolation

• Fatigue or decreased energy

Source: North Range Behavioral Health

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