GRASS VALLEY, Calif. — Dozens of “turkey trot” events are held every year on or around Thanksgiving, but one particular run in Grass Valley holds a deeper meaning than most.
It’s a Grass Valley tradition and it's on its 17th year. It started back in 2006 and is expecting thousands of participants this year. The Michael Edward Bratton II Turkey Trot is being held at Nevada Union High School.
"It's a 5K, 10K run and walk. People come and have a cup of coffee and a donut and a lot of people come to walk,” said Mike Bratton with MEB2 Foundation, Inc.
But the message at this event is different than most.
“It's a lot of fun, but it's also very important to talk about mental health and that there are tools, there is hope, and you can recover from that," said Bratton.
The run was created in memory of Bratton’s son who took his own life in 2006 at the age of 25.
Bratton says his son graduated from Nevada Union and was “very active in sports, very popular, a wonderful young man” who went on to graduate from Sacramento State University and eventually went back to coach sports at Nevada Union while being a real estate broker.
“He was by all sense of imagination a very successful young man,” said Bratton.
But what the father didn’t know was that his son was suffering from depression. After his passing, Bratton started the MEB2 Foundation and race to raise suicide and mental health awareness, while also putting an end to the stigma.
"It was actually Michael's idea to host a turkey trot here to do a fundraiser for Nevada Union football,” said Bratton. “It's a celebration of my son but not a celebration of what he did and it's become a huge community activity."
Although Bratton losing his son will never feel good, he takes action with his pain to reduce the number of suicide deaths in Grass Valley.
“In 2006, we were the number one suicide rate, per capita county, in the state. Today, we're number 19, so in the last 17 years, we've made a lot of movement," said Bratton. “I know Michael's looking down, and he would be proud. We miss him dearly."
Bratton says there's still a lot of work to be done, but he's grateful to have the support of an entire community. He urges anyone who's struggling with depression and having suicidal thoughts to seek help and not be ashamed.
“There's help through counseling, therapy and medical treatment and changing your lifestyle,” said Bratton. “But the message is: there is hope. Suicide is absolutely not the answer."
The race kicks off Thursday at 8:30 a.m. and anyone interested in more information can find it HERE. All proceeds from the race will go toward the organization's focus on depression and suicide prevention.
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