Into the Light 5K at Rutgers raises $73K for the American Suicide Prevention Foundation
This past Saturday evening marked the first "Into the Light" 5-kilometer run on Cook campus.
According to the event page on Facebook, the 5-kilometer marathon ran from 5 to 8:30 p.m. and the money raised will be donated to the American Suicide Prevention Foundation (ASPF).
Sophia Mazzini, one of the event organizers, said originally the goal was to raise $5,000. The event ended up raising upward of $73,000 and was attended by more than 1,000 members of the Rutgers community.
“When I was a senior in high school, at the end of the year when I was getting ready to take all my exams, my dad passed away from suicide,” the Rutgers Business School sophomore said.
Sophia Mazzini said that it was very hard for her family, but that she and her sister did not want to sit around and do nothing.
“Somebody gave us the idea to do a 5k because our dad loved to work out. He went on runs every day at 4 a.m. ...” she said.
Artemis Mazzini, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said that this year they tried to go through the City of New Brunswick to organize the event by speaking to bureau and county officials, but there were many unforeseen steps to be taken.
“So we turned to Rutgers because we are both Rutgers students and we are passionate about the campus and we know a lot of students on campus struggle with mental illness,” she said.
Artemis Mazzini said that she always knew she wanted to pursue something involving communication and planning, which is what she is focusing on at Rutgers, and that she found a way to put apply it to this event.
Into the Light is what is called a third party event and is connected with ASPF, but Sophia Mazzini said it is still their own event so they have a bit more freedom to make their own decisions about the event, like incorporating live music or speakers.
ASPF tried to do a run at Rutgers in the past but it was never done. Sophia Mazzini said that she and her sister were able to gain more community interest for their event due to their personal connection to mental illness, as well as their personal connection to the community itself.
“The community is so great because everyone is so connected. No matter how different you are there are so many people and everyone comes from everywhere," Sophia Mazzini said. "Also, we are close enough to home where people from home can support us and come to our event and be really involved."
Most of the people who attended the run were members of the greek life community, she said.
The year that their father, Phil Mazzini, passed away, Artemis Mazzini was a new member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority. Her sisters gave her support and when planning began, they were a big help, Sophia Mazzini said.
“Last year they helped us do a bagel breakfast at their house during finals week to raise money. Now they have been helping us to get into Panhellenic and IFC meetings,” she said.
Christie Schweighardt, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) vice president, said that the amount of community the Mazzini sisters have built around this event is amazing.
Schweighardt said that with any movement at Rutgers, the people who are passionate about their cause are always the people in the conversation.
“Now having greek life involved in mental health and so many people who used to not be a part of the conversation is amazing,” Schweighardt said.
Artemis Mazzini said that they had several speakers at the event.
Speakers included Stephen Chece, who is a psychologist, Steven Gluckstein, an Olympic athlete and James Murphy, a poet. Additionally, a young man by the name of Matt Sefcik was scheduled to attend the event to share a personal story.
Sweighart said that being a part of an event that brings awareness to an issue is important to RUSA because it balances everything out. If people are more comfortable talking about it, then they feel more comfortable going to the Center for Counseling, Alcohol and other Drug Assistance Program and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) or their workshops.
Instead of working for another foundation, the Mazzini sisters are hoping to kickstart their own, where students can come together, share their stories and talk about how they feel about their experiences.
“I believed in this and I believed in us,” Mazzini said. “I believed we could do more than Rutgers was estimating we could achieve.”