Well Kept Wallet 2023 Scholarship Winner

Congratulations to Laura McCullar, our 2023 Scholarship Winner. Below is her essay, printed with permission.

In 2018 I participated in the Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide prevention that was coordinated by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

This walk was a community event with the purpose of raising funds to provide mental health resources and crisis interventions for our local area. I firmly supported, and still do, the mission of AFSP. If it was not for this nonprofit, I can confidently say that I would not be writing this essay today. 

One July night, a year prior, I was at the end of my rope. I knew I needed help, but a part of me wanted to give up. Through Google searches, looking for any cost-free resources, I stumbled upon their webpage.

Taking a shot in the dark, I wrote an email at three-thirty in the morning not expecting a response. Three hours later my phone dinged and I was referred to a case worker in my local area.

Together, the two of us worked through my struggles. There were no questions about insurance reimbursements, no payment plans, and no invoices for her service.

The only thing I received was hope, compassion, and love. Mrs. Susan was a hero to me. She connected me with support groups for victims of domestic violence.

When I did not know where my next meal would come from, she provided me with directions to local food pantries. Mrs. Susan was more than a volunteer case worker; she was a gift from God.

Over the next year we kept in contact with each other. Every month I could count on a phone call from her to check in and see how I was doing. On one of those calls I found out about this event that was being held right outside of The Woodlands Mall.

She told me it was more than just a walk, it was a way for survivors to share their stories, for families to remember their loved ones, and for people to find empowerment through their struggles. Right away I knew I was going to attend.

However, aside from physically participating in the event, I wanted to raise money and contribute financially to the cause. When I registered for the walk I noticed that I was able to create a personal fundraiser. When I created my fundraiser page, I shared a brief back story and posted it to my Facebook wall in hopes of getting a few donations.

Over the next week my fundraiser still sat at zero dollars. I took the night to think of ways that I could get donations. My first attempt was to message a link to everyone I knew hoping someone would take the bait. When that didn’t work I realized something.

Why in the world would anyone invest into something I am so passionate about if I have not invested anything myself? With that thought in mind, I looked at my finances and carefully decided what dollar amount I could contribute without putting myself in a hole.

If I could, I would have donated the whole one-thousand dollars that was sitting in my checking account, but I knew I had groceries to buy and bills to pay. The next day I made the donation of twenty-five dollars. 

Without much thought I shared the post once more, this time reflecting the small contribution made on my end. I also decided to set a goal of two-hundred dollars. I thought, if anything, I could at least get seventy-five more dollars in donations to accomplish half of the goal.

Within five minutes I got my first outside donation. It was five dollars from my brother. Then one by one little donations here and there started coming in. I was excited to say the least!

Overnight my fundraiser went from twenty-five dollars to one hundred and fifty dollars. I received donations from friends, relatives, and friends of friends. In one last attempt to reach my goal I shared the fundraiser for a final time. This time in the comments I wrote about my personal struggles with suicide and how AFSP was a wonderful resource I found during my darkest hour.

I explained that the money would be going to AFSP, which is a nonprofit, and that the donations could be used as tax write off. Lastly, I pleaded for any final donations that could inch me closer to my goal. 

The next morning, I checked my email and found out that my fundraiser had exceeded one-thousand dollars! I was in complete shock. Overnight it appeared as though numerous donations were made by local companies who saw my post.

Once I received the news I sent out a broadcast to every donor thanking them for their financial contributions and I encouraged everyone to join me that next weekend for the walk. 

When the big day arrived, multiple donors showed up and walked beside me. I had the opportunity to connect with many individuals who told me that my story helped them find hope with their own struggles. This whole event was life changing for me.

At the beginning of my fundraiser, I will admit, I was scared to go public with my story. I was embarrassed to have even had the thought of ending my life. I felt guilty for not sharing with my family the struggles I faced. Day by day however, I was reminded of the mission AFSP set forth. A mission to bring mental health issues to the surface.

A mission to bring those struggling out of the darkness and to show them that tomorrow is a new day. I like to believe that my twenty-five dollars changed many lives. Although it was never about the money, that small contribution went a long ways.