AST Press Release
Three Alaska Wildlife Troopers who are crusading to prevent suicides will begin their1,500-miles journey across rural Alaska Sunday. After last year’s successful 850-mile snow machine trip in the Interior, Alaska Wildlife Troopers Darrell Hildebrand, Thomas Akelkok and Jon Simeon plan an ambitious trip to reach adults and school children in five different school districts and 19 villages in rural Alaska. Director of AWT, Col. Gary Folger will join them for the first section of the trip from Manley Hot Springs on March 17 to McGrath on March 20. Other troopers will join the expedition for sections of the trek as they wind their way to Bethel and back by March 30. For the first part of the trip, they’ll follow the Tanana and Yukon rivers and revisit some villages that they visited last year. Then they’ll turn south and travel the Kuskokwim River, visiting villages between and around McGrath, Aniak and Bethel before heading back to Manley Hot Springs.
All three grew up in rural Alaska – Hildebrand in Nulato, Simeon in Aniak and Akelkok in Ekwok – where the suicide rate is an epidemic. The rate in Alaska is almost twice that of the rest of the nation, but Alaska Native males between the ages of 15-24 have the highest rate with an average of 141.6 suicides per 100,000 (2000-2009). As representatives of not only law enforcement, but also Alaska Native men, they use their personal stories as proof that despite all that may go wrong in life, there’s still a way to succeed.
The goal of the trip is to make sure people know to reach out to someone and talk about their problems – whether it’s a friend, a parent, grandparent, teacher or even the troopers. Last year was the first time the three troopers braved subzero temperatures and blowing winds to snowmachine to the different communities in rural Alaska to tell school children and community members there is always hope in the midst of despair and that suicide is preventable. Along the way they’ll hand out personalized Alaska Suicide Prevention CARELINE cards. You can track their progress through a SPOT locator at http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0bDRo8I8AeOFeIcrUuovhhJmq1VFGvLxC