When I was in college, I had a blog. Every week I would write my thoughts about the movies I saw or what Minnesota team has ruined my day over my life at the time. After the week that Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings had, I was ready to let loose in my “Our Turn” column. Then I thought about the story I wrote about the Matt Kjelland Memorial walk/run for last Friday’s issue of the Echo Press.

I met with Mike and Sue Kjelland in the spring. It was a story I was nervous about writing because it was about the tragic end of their son’s life. How was I supposed to encapsulate the spirit of a man I haven’t met? With the run happening this Saturday, it was time for this story to go to print.

I was satisfied with how the story turned out. However, I couldn’t help but feel like I should’ve done more. Looking back at what the story was, I didn’t use it as an opportunity to promote the resources that the people in Douglas County have when it comes to suicide.

Mike, Sue and their son, Andrew, are one of the many reasons I love my job and the place that I work. They took an unthinkable tragedy and took it upon themselves to help people.

They have gathered 12 hard-working people that serve on their planning group and board of directors to help organize the race. They rounded up nearly 120 volunteers from the community to help with race-day operations, including a group of 50 from the Alexandria Technical and Community College. Numerous donors and local-regional businesses help fund the event and contribute to many relevant charity organizations. The Kjelland family took the phrase, “making the best out of a bad situation” to an insurmountable level.

The race on Saturday will be very emotional for a lot of people, but the money raised will go to the right places:

  • The Community Suicide Awareness Education Group is a local resource that provides referrals and assistance to those in need.

  • The Campus Awareness and Prevention of Suicide is an organization at Alexandria Technical and Community College that provides services for students at the institution to assists in the awareness and prevention of suicide

  • The Operation 23 to Zero Veterans Program (a Minnesota-based group) is dedicated to reducing the 23 suicides of military veterans that happen each day around the country.

  • BIO-Girls (Beauty Inside/Out) is a national organization that is dedicated to improving self-esteem in girls ages 7-12. The Alexandria chapter has 33 participants.

  • The Matt Kjelland Memorial Scholarship is awarded to students pursuing careers in wellness professions.

All of these groups will not only benefit from the efforts of the run, but they will also represent themselves on Saturday.

My job allows me to meet great people. I can say that Mike and Sue Kjelland are two of the best. People like them remind me that some things are more significant than sports. A column about how the Vikings are wasting $84 million on a below-average quarterback will have to wait until next time.

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“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.