Ocean City Today

Ninth annual Jesse’s Paddle to take place this Saturday

By Greg Ellison | Jul 13, 2017
Source: File Photo During last years Jesse’s Paddle fundraiser, numerous kayak-riding participants enjoyed an idyllic time on the water after launching their boats from the dock outside the Pocomoke River Company, while simultaneously raising money to support ongoing educational efforts to combat suicide on the Eastern Shore.


(July 14, 2017) The Pocomoke River in Snow Hill will fill with scores of canoe, kayak and standup paddleboard enthusiasts supporting suicide prevention during the ninth annual Jesse’s Paddle fundraiser on Saturday.

The gathering, which is organized by Friends of the Jesse Klump Memorial Fund, will take place at the Pocomoke River Canoe Company on River Street. Up to five-dozen watercraft will be launched into the river starting at 5 p.m., with registration beginning at 4 p.m.

The fund was established in 2009 by Worcester resident Kim Klump after her son Jesse, a college bound Snow Hill High School senior, took his own life.

In the immediate aftermath of her son’s suicide, Klump created the Jesse Klump Memorial Scholarship and in 2011 began the Jesse Klump Suicide Awareness and Prevention Program.

Although the annual fundraiser addresses a topic surrounded by sadness, in a recent press release Klump said Jesse’s Paddle provides an occasion to celebrate memories.

“On this day every year we remember fondly those we have lost to suicide with fun, food, auctions, prizes, and live music,” she said. “Every penny of the funds we raise is invested in suicide prevention education and scholarship.”

Klump noted that in addition to food, drinks and a silent auction, live music is on tap from three young musical talents starting at 4:30 p.m.

Snow Hill favorite Nick Haglich will kick off the entertainment with his heartfelt acoustic renditions of classic rock songs. After that a pair of teenagers, songbird Gigi Pesaniello and guitarist Gabe Resto, will light up the stage.

Fund Manager Ron Pilling said last year’s Jesse’s Paddle, which raised approximately $23,000, was a record-setting affair.

“Our goal is to top $23,000 this year and right now were about halfway there,” he said. “That’s generally where we are a week before the Paddle.”

Each year, the Paddle fundraiser draws a large crowd all united by a common cause, Pilling said.

“This is an event where we have 200-250 people [and] we put 50 boats in the river,” he said. “The food is free, the music is free – everything is free.”

While the majority of the funds will support a Show Hill High School graduate next year, Pilling said the remainder goes to serve a vital function.

“The first $15,000 that come from the Paddle is earmarked for a 2018 scholarship,” he said. “Once we meet that goal … every other penny goes towards our suicide prevention outreach and education program.”

The mission to raise awareness is a year-round effort, Pilling said.

“Within two weeks of the Paddle we will have taught two youth suicide prevention workshops to student mentors of Snow Hill High School,” he said. “Going back a week or two, we participated in an applied suicide intervention skills training workshop that was attended by adults.”

Pilling said earlier in the year the outreach efforts also included Safe Talk, a three-hour suicide prevention workshop, as well as attendance at numerous health fairs throughout Worcester County.

“We taught SOS, Signs Of Suicide, which is a special curriculum,” he said. “We taught every eighth grade class in Worcester County schools in the month of May. It has been an extraordinarily busy year for us so far.”

On top of that, Pilling said the group also conducted monthly suicide griever’s workshops.

“That’s as important a part of our prevention work as anything else,” he said. “People who have lost loved ones to suicide are up to four times more likely to make an attempt on their own lives as a result.”

Pilling said the release of the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” earlier this year, although sensationalistic, served some positive ends.

“It has put the risk of youth suicide, the stress that young people face today, it has put that on everyone’s list,” he said. “Awareness is part of the battle and ‘13 Reasons Why’ has contributed to the awareness of the risk of suicide, which most people try not to think about.”

Pilling admitted to serious misgivings when the series was initially released.

“When Netflix first brought it out there was no recognition of the existence of something typically called copycat suicide,” he said. “There was no thought to the fact that a young person might see this and think, ‘Oh, there’s the solution to my problem.’”

He highlighted a number of criticisms leveled by health professionals.

“The depiction of a rape scene [and] the depiction of the actual suicide is very graphic,” he said. “[There was] no national hotline number, no resources given at all until at the very end of all 13 episodes.”

Pilling is thankful that criticism encouraged the series producers to make several notable changes.

“About six weeks after the series first came out, they added 800-237-TALK, which is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, to every sequence at the beginning and the end,” he said.

Pilling sees an opportunity for parents willing to view the program with their children.

“Be aware of it and be open to talking to your kids about it,” he said. “You’ll learn a lot about youth suicide, but you’ll also learn a lot of fresh stuff about your kids lives.”

For more information on registration, and to reserve a canoe, kayaks or paddleboard, call 410-632-3971. Boats are provided at no charge, but all participants are required to bring a pledge of at least $30. Pledge forms can be downloaded at www.jessespaddle.org.

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