SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — The 437 Project’s dozen runners crossing South Dakota from west to east on foot have completed their journey, and the emotions at the Levitt Shell in Sioux Falls where the runners arrived to cheers on Sunday ranged from celebratory to somber.
“Seeing all of our support groups cheering us on, it just, it’s overwhelming,” Sioux Falls runner Rochelle Sweetman said. “Just gratitude.”
“We have to celebrate life, and we have to be there for one another,” Sioux Falls runner Carter Gronseth said.
The gathered crowd also heard from people on stage who have lost loved ones to suicide. The runners took the stage, too, to share their own reflections. Runner Benson Langat of Sioux Falls showed the crowd a shirt adorned with names of people lost to suicide.
“I came up with the idea to ask people on social media, from the local Sioux Falls area and South Dakota too, if they know anybody,” Langat said.
He’s been adding names to the shirt since Wednesday. The group’s journey started Thursday at the Wyoming border and ended Sunday at the Iowa border.
“I did run in it,” Langat said. “When the journey was getting heavy, it gave me the reason to why I was doing this, the strength to keep going, because running across the state, your body’s going through a lot of emotional and physical fatigue.”
It may not be easy to run across a state, but mourning someone you love who lost their life to suicide is another matter entirely.
“I wanted to remind myself that no matter what I’m feeling, that every step counts as it reminds me of these individuals,” Langat said. “Even though I don’t know their stories that well, their names are there with me.”
All told, The 437 Project raised slightly more than $250,000 for the Helpline Center, which connects people with mental health resources. This more than doubles the total raised last year.
“This was by far the most amazing experience that I’ve ever had and most amazing project that I’ve ever been a part of,” Gronseth said.
“I feel tired, running on less sleep,” Langat said. “Physically tired, emotionally fulfilled.”
Carter Gronseth is the daughter of Dexter Gronseth, assignment editor at KELOLAND News.