DOWNERS GROVE – Jamie Silver has always been forthright about her son’s death.
“I want to destigmatize suicide,” Silver said.
Ben Silver, a state champion runner from Downers Grove North High School, died July 2, 2015. He was 22 years old.
A 2011 Downers Grove North graduate, Ben was unable to continue his high school running success in college because of injuries. He faced some academic challenges and eventually was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He began taking medication, which was helpful, but Ben spent the next 18 months in and out of mental health facilities, his mother said.
"I think it's important to know that he got sick," Jamie Silver said. "No one wants this to happen.This is the last thing that I would have wanted."
Silver refused to live the rest of her life in despair. Soon after her son's death, friends and family began discussions about an event that would honor his life and raise money for suicide awareness and prevention.
“It's always Ben’s Memorial Mile,” Silver said. “It came about so quickly.”
The name was changed this year to Ben’s Memorial Mile Running Gala and Family Festival to better reflect the myriad of activities featured at the third annual event, which will take place June 16 at Downers Grove North.
The festivities run from 5 to 9 p.m. and include several races, including an open mile, elite mile, walking mile, costume mile, kids' half mile and little kids' 100-meter dash. The Geezer Wheezer has been added to this year’s events and is designed for runners older than 50.
And the night is not limited to running. Inflatables and face painting will be available for children, and the evening will include a raffle, auction, dance lessons, bags tournament, bake sale, kids' tent and an after-party at Ballydoyle Irish Pub and Restaurant, 5157 Main St.
"I'm so proud of the committee that pulls all of this together," Silver said.
More than 600 people attended last year's event. The run has raised about $50,000 over the first two years. Proceeds are donated to Hope for the Day, a Chicago-based suicide prevention organization, and the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation in New York City.
Silver has no doubt the event would please her son.
"Ben was the type of person who would want people to be happy," Silver said. "He was at the sideline cheering on the last person. He was popular. He was sweet. He was wonderful. He's cheering for all the runners, and he's putting his arms around his friends."
If you go
WHAT: Ben's Memorial Mile
WHEN: 5 to 9 p.m. June 16
WHERE: Downers Grove North High School, 4436 Main St., Downers Grove
INFO: bensmemorialmile.com, 630-926-3001