Jo-Ann Odom lost her son to suicide on Christmas Day 2009. William was only 32, leaving behind four young children ranging in age from 3 to 9.
“He was a wonderful father, who loved his children more than life, making it all the more difficult to understand his death,” says Jo-Ann. To deal with her grief, she and several members of her family tried a suicide support group, but it didn’t seem to help. “After a few sessions I found myself getting more angry each time I went and I knew this wasn’t going to help me move forward.”
That’s when Jo-Ann discovered MOM and connected with its mission to promote mental health awareness and suicide prevention. “Doing something positive was what I was looking for and when the opportunity to join MOM came along, it felt so right,” Jo-Ann says. She and her family rallied a group of 27 people who competed as team “Good Will Running,” running together to break the silence surrounding suicide and mental illness. “Our first year was very special. It truly touched my heart,” Jo-Ann says.
Jo-Ann was so moved by the experience, she wanted to do more. She and her grandson, who was 14 at the time, started making bracelets and selling them as a way to further promote the cause. Jo-Ann donated the proceeds to MOM in 2010. Now that her grandson is a bit older, she still makes them, but gives them away. “If I run across someone who lost a person from suicide, I feel it might help them to know they aren’t alone,” Jo-Ann says. “I always tell the person ‘we are linked together forever.’ I believe there is strength in numbers—the more people involved, the greater the possibility we can save one person from thinking their life is worthless.”
Team Good Will Running continues to participate in the MOM race, wearing their bracelets proudly and doing something positive with their grief. “I don’t think you ever get over losing someone from suicide, but you try to find ways to help others,” Jo-Ann says. “Never give up … you have to keep trying.”