Saturday, May 07, 2011

Alumnus goes the distance for suicide awareness

Mike Nowak, an Eastern graduate and founder of the Just A Mile Foundation, tells the story of his friend and Sigma Phi Epsilon brother Jesse Mounce during Rock the Fight For Life in 7th Street Underground. Mounce committed suicide in February 2008, which led to Nowak starting the foundation. (Kimberly Foster | The Daily Eastern News)
Mike Nowak, an Eastern graduate and founder of the Just A Mile Foundation, tells the story of his friend and Sigma Phi Epsilon brother Jesse Mounce during Rock the Fight For Life in 7th Street Underground. Mounce committed suicide in February 2008, which led to Nowak starting the foundation. (Kimberly Foster | The Daily Eastern News)
Three years ago the tragic death of a Sigma Phi Epsilon member impacted the lives of Eastern students, including his fraternity brothers. Mike Nowak was one of these students. From the loss of a friend to suicide, Nowak turned his way of coping into a non-profit organization called "Just a Mile."

With a goal to raise money and spread suicide awareness, Nowak, a 2008 Eastern alumnus, plans on running a marathon in all 50 states.

Nowak started "Just a Mile" after the loss of fellow Sig Ep brother Jesse Mounce to suicide in 2008.

On Feb. 8, 2008, Mounce, a sophomore communication studies major at the time, was found dead in his Ninth Street apartment. Coles County Coroner Michael Nichols told The Daily Eastern News in a Feb. 8, 2008 issue that Mounce's injuries were "apparently self-inflicted."

Nowak said after Mounce's death, running was like a sort of therapy for him.

"I used it as a way to just center myself a clear my mind," Nowak said.

Nowak later ran the Chicago Marathon, his first marathon and an item on his bucket list.

Andrew Shipp, a senior business management major and member of Sig Ep, said Mounce's death had a wide impact.

"It really had a large impact on my fraternity and I know it had a big, even bigger impact on (Nowak)," Shipp said.

Nowak said he decided that if he was going to run, he should run for a reason and raise money and awareness for suicide along the way. The "Just a Mile" foundation was created and Nowak made it his goal to run a marathon in all 50 states while raising at least $1,000 for each marathon for the organization.

"Just a Mile," or "J.A.M.," taken from the initials of Mounce, lends the slogan "managing life's marathon one mile at a time."

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As Bro. Chuck Eberly said when he passed along this story:
What a wonderful outcome if Sig Ep runners across the country became connected with Mike’s objectives for “Just A Mile”.