SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Abbey Bruner sees herself in her late son Blake.

“He was strong and ornery,” the Sioux Falls resident said. “And he was just like me, and we were the same person, only I’m mom and he’s son.”

Blake had a giving heart.

“He had a new guy started his work, and he didn’t have all the winter gear,” she said. “And so he gave him his dad’s beanie hat and then gave him his old boots and just went and got new ones.”

Blake died last November by suicide. The young Sioux Falls man was 21 years old.

“He had a mom and a dad and a girlfriend and a grandmother who would have loved to take that call and would have been right there for him,” Bruner said. “And I wish he would have reached out.”

His mother compares mental illness with a heavy darkness that seems impenetrable.

“It’s like you’re covered in tar, and you can’t see past that moment,” Bruner said.

She now honors her son in different ways. One involves a popular downtown Sioux Falls restaurant and Blake’s brother.

“He just loved to tip big, as big as he could,” Bruner said. “So sometimes we’ll be eating out, last time we did it we were at the Diner, and Dylan and I got something, and I said, ‘Do you want to do the thing?’ ‘Oh yeah, let’s do it.’ So we left a big tip. And it feels so good to do that. That brings us so much joy.”

It’s not at all hard to talk about her son: quite the opposite.

“It feels so good to talk about Blake, any stories feel wonderful,” Bruner said. “It feels like a weight is lifted whenever we talk about Blake, when we watch videos.”

Another way she has memorialized her son is through helping out The 437 Project with their recent relay run across South Dakota. She and her husband John were part of the support crew. The effort saw 12 runners cross the state in a fundraiser for the Helpline Center, which connects South Dakotans with mental health resources.

All told, the runners’ efforts raised just over a quarter million dollars for the nonprofit. KELOLAND News followed the runners as they moved from west to east; Kelly Marshall of Sioux Falls was on the team

“I actually spent a lot of my time on my leg this morning just praying and being thankful for the opportunity to be able to do this,” Marshall said.

“It was really overwhelming,” Bruner said. “It was so beautiful to meet these people that took time out of their busy schedules.”

Coming up in Tuesday night’s Eye on KELOLAND, viewers will learn how the Helpline Center was essential for Bruner and how The 437 Project shined a spotlight on mental health.