COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — The Columbus community gathered together during National Suicide Prevention Month to bring awareness and raise funds for a young life lost too soon.

The first Sims Vickers Memorial Let it Shine 5k is much more than a race.

“And just as parents and as people that are in charge of teenagers… just being very present and aware of what’s going on in their lives,” said Anne Marie Vickers, Sims’ mother. “We felt like we were present and aware in Sims’ life. We never thought this would happen. And we’re living proof that if it’s going to happen, it can happen to anyone.”

The 5k brought 200 people together to start the conversation about mental health, specifically teen suicide. The First Baptist Church youth group organized the race in honor of Sims, a Columbus teen who tragically took his own life in March of 2022. Loved ones describe Sims as kind, outgoing and a light to those around him.

“Sometimes we get caught up in our own world, in our own lives, and we just need to be on the lookout for those within our own family that are hurting, that are struggling and just dealing with all the negativity that this world has to offer,” said Sims’ father, Jed Vickers.

For Sims’s parents it was a time to put a face to the silent disease. In an effort to keep Sims’ memory alive, participants were encouraged to bring down their walls and be vulnerable with one another. Sims’ best friend, Abby Jones, played a huge role in organizing the event.

“Even the exercise that Abby had us do, turn to your neighbor and say, ‘I am not okay, turn to your neighbor and say I need help,’ just giving people permission to know that they’re not alone in that and they can ask for help if they need it,” said Tabata Boyd, a Teen Advisors employee.

“It’s okay to say I’m not okay,” said Dr. Jaketra Bryant, a licensed professional counselor. “It’s okay to say when I’m okay and it’s okay to create spaces that allow that.”

The CDC reports “suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 14 and 20 to 34 in 2021.”

“We’ve heard the statistics about mental health crises amongst youth and young people, and so we wanted to do something that would make a public statement that says, we’re here for you,” said Daniel Potter, a minister at First Baptist Church. “We hear you.”

Over $8,000 was raised for the Bradley Center’s Adolescent Unit to help young people experiencing mental health challenges.

Sims’ parents were surprised with custom gold medals that had Hebrews 3:13 “I will put my trust in him,” engraved on the back in their son’s handwriting.