Students from St. Patrick’s High School in Chicago developed creative ways to raise awareness of the tragedy of Veterans taking their own lives.  The effort supported September as Suicide Prevention Month as well as LCVFSF’s Ruck March of Lake County, a virtual march intended to send the message that 22 Veterans a day lost to suicide is unacceptable.

The students’ effort had both internal and external parts. Internally, students from each grade took turns carrying a backpack around the school’s hallways and to all their classes for a day. The 22 pounds symbolizes the peak number of daily Veteran suicides.  The effort started on September 1 and continued every school day until September 22, the completion date of LCVFSF’s Ruck March campaign.

Externally, the students walked with loaded backpacks from St. Patrick’s to Triton College, five miles away.  Triton was the site of St. Patrick’s homecoming game.  At halftime, both Veterans and first responders were honored.  The students were joined in the march by faculty and staff members of St. Patrick’s.

The students also included a fund-raising component to their efforts, with the funds going to support Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation.

“The students came up with these ideas on their own,” said Jon Baffico, principal of St. Patrick’s.  “They wanted to do more than just raise money.  “They wanted to create meaningful experiences that would have a more lasting effect.”

“We are very impressed and grateful to the students of St. Patrick’s for coming up with different ways to send an important message,” said Paul Baffico, founder and president of Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation and father of Jon, “I am proud of their efforts to touch so many people inside and outside the walls of St. Patrick’s.

From the Staff and Veterans of Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation:


by Bob Gorman