Preview of Into the Light 5K, which aims to raise awareness on mental health

<p>&nbsp;Sophia Mazzini (right) said when her father (left) died by suicide in 2016, she wanted to do something to combat depression, suicide and mental health. With the success of the first 5K she organized, Into the Light has expanded to more events to raise awareness of mental health.&nbsp;</p>

 Sophia Mazzini (right) said when her father (left) died by suicide in 2016, she wanted to do something to combat depression, suicide and mental health. With the success of the first 5K she organized, Into the Light has expanded to more events to raise awareness of mental health. 

On Saturday, May 4 at 4:30 p.m., the second annual Into the Light 5K will take place at 50 Biel Rd on Cook campus. The 5K run/walk is for mental health awareness and offers free registration to any who would like to participate, according to fliers. 

The organization held its first 5K in September 2017 after Phil Mazzini, father of Artemis Mazzini and Sophia Mazzini, died by suicide in 2016. 

Sophia Mazzini, a Rutgers Business School junior, is the current president of the Into the Light club and founder of the Into the Light nonprofit organization.

“(In) my senior year of high school, my dad passed away by suicide and it was really hard,” Mazzini said. “I came to Rutgers that following September and (my sister and I) wanted to do something for depression, suicide and just mental health in general because we know other people struggle with it, and that there is no point in not talking about it and being ashamed about it.”

After hosting the first 5K and seeing its success, Into the Light became not just a singular event but also a nonprofit organization, which is run by the sisters and their mother Yannah Mazzini. The success of the event though, was a surprise to Sophia Mazzini.

“We thought it would be small, like it would have 200 people and raise $5,000. So we put together this event and we ended up raising over $100,000 and we had over 1,200 participants there. It made us realize that people wanted to talk about mental health and it was way more (important) than people were making it,” she said.

Artemis Mazzini, Sophia Mazzini and Yannah Mazzini are respectively the chief executive director, president and executive director of the organization. According to Into the Light’s website, the mission is to rid the stigma of mental health issues for teens and young adults. 

Into the Light also collaborates with other restaurants and organizations. For instance, on April 25 there was a Greene Turtle Fundraiser at the Greene Turtle Sports Bar and Restaurant in North Brunswick, where 20% of the day’s food sales went toward the Into the Light organization. The event was meant for customers to have dinner and also participate in games in anticipation for the following week’s 5K run/walk.

Other past events included a panel on prevention of teen suicide, an interfaith youth dialogue on the role of religion in hard times and multiple events incorporating physical health and mental health. 

Into the Light also reaches students by hosting mindfulness events such as yoga sessions at the University. Besides Rutgers, the organization also does presentations at other colleges such as Westchester College and Endicott College, and high schools such as Red Bank Regional high School on where to get resources for mental health, how to handle stressful situations and other tactics to use when stressed out or feeling down, Mazzini said. 

According to fliers for the 5K run/walk, there will also be food, music and a feeling of community offered at the event. Sophia said a live Rutgers band, Other Lovers, will be performing at check-in. Following that, MMA fighter Alexa Conners will be speaking on her experience with mental health and fighting for awareness. Radio personality Mark Farrell will also be emceeing the event, speaking on his and his brother’s experience with mental health. 

Other amenities at the event will include face painting tables, food trucks and resources for mental health, Sophia Mazzini said. 

“We thought, ‘Daddy liked running, let’s do that.’ And we thought it would be a one-time thing, and we figured at a 5K we could have speakers, music, be more of a community event,” she said. 

The 5K is less of a sprint, but more of a community event where people show up to support the cause of mental health and is one of the main events the organizations has, she added. 

Last time, the 5K raised funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This year, the funds will be split between the foundation and mental health services on campus. 

“Over 550 people have signed up, and you can keep on signing up until the day of the race,” she said. “I think (the number) is going to keep growing and I hope it does.”

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