Kaleb Ludington competes in a suicide prevention skateboarding competition on Sunday, June 2, 2013, at Skate Street Extreme Sports Park in Chesterton. | Michael Gard~For Sun-Times Media
The gray skies and chilly air did not keep the crowds of youth away from Life Fest 2013.
The festival, in its second year, was held at two locations in Chesterton June 2. Event organizers Kara Fasone and Sean Cromwell say their goal is to raise awareness about the issue of suicide and its prevention.
“We want kids to realize there are local resources available to help and know there’re not alone,” said Fasone at the Sunday event.
Life Fest opened in the morning with a skating competition at Chesterton’s Skate Street skate park. Nine contenders vied for prizes and bragging rights. The skating event was called “Potterthon,” in memory of David Potter, a local youth who helped organize and build the skate park.
Andrew White, 20, was one of the judges for the event. “I think the fest is a great idea. It’s a first step to greater awareness,” said White, and said that Potter had been one of his best friends.
Announcer Luke Pierce, 21, has lost friends to suicide. “Suicides have been a problem. This event brings something positive out of a negative,” he said.
David’s uncle Tom Potter was on hand to watch the skaters. “The great thing about this event is that the kids did it themselves. Kids these days get a bad rap but these kids are out here doing something good.”
Kaleb Ludington, a graduating senior at Chesterton High School, has been skating for 10 years and took part in the competition. David was a neighbor, said Ludington. “Suicide should never happen. When things go bad you need to remember that it will get better.”
After the skating competition the festival continued at Thomas Park in downtown Chesterton with informational booths and live music.
Annika Kuehl, a seventh-grader at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Valparaiso, was selling bracelets for a group she founded, Friends Fighting Back, or FFB.
“It’s a play on BFF, best friends forever,” Kuehl explained. She had been subjected to bullying in school and finally decided do to something about it.
Kuehl created the bracelets to raise awareness for issues that especially impact today’s youth — bullying, self-harm and suicide.
“Everything goes hand in hand, everything is so intertwined,” said mother Jennifer Kuehl. “We need to build an army of voices and stand up and say, ‘we need action.’”