Yampa Valley Medical Center to host program about bullying, suicide | SteamboatToday.com

Yampa Valley Medical Center to host program about bullying, suicide

It Takes Courage hopes to expand its local reach

— Heather Savalox never expected the video she made chronicling the life and eventual suicide of her 15-year-old niece Kristina would be seen by many more people than Kristina’s mom.

Today, the video that also outlines the most tragic consequence of bullying has been viewed more than 500,000 times online.

"People in Argentina are watching it," Savalox said Sunday.

And she said it has touched complete strangers, some of whom have told her the story helped them at a time they were contemplating taking their own life because of bullying.

"What it really boils down to is being able to take something that was horrible and tragic for my family and to use it in a positive way so other people don’t ever have to go through something like that," Savalox said.

Last year, Savalox founded It Takes Courage, a grass-roots community outreach team in Steamboat Springs dedicated to raising awareness about bullying and preventing suicides.

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And nearly a year after its founding, the group is making strides in the Yampa Valley and beyond.

Savalox estimates that she along with three high school volunteers and a social worker have talked to more than 800 people about how to prevent bullying.

During their programs, the high school students share their own stories of coping with bullying, and Katy Thiel adds her own experience as a social worker for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.

Their audiences have ranged from Steamboat Springs High School cheerleaders to Partners in Routt County’s youth-based mentors.

And on Tuesday night, Savalox and the group hope to reach a new audience when they put on an evening program at Yampa Valley Medical Center geared toward parents and young adults.

"I’m excited to reach a new audience," Savalox said.

Olivia Rudolph, a junior at The Lowell Whiteman School, joined the group after she lost one of her friends to suicide.

She said on Sunday that she wants to keep sharing her story and educating the public about the impacts of bullying.

"I know I’m making a difference and it’s helping me be a better person, too," Rudolph said. "It feels good that after nearly a year, we’re really getting the message across and it’s not just a presentation for the kids to sit through. A lot of kids are sitting there, eyes wide open, and it hits them in the heart that bullying is bad."

Savalox said It Takes Courage has been supported by private donations.

The group gained some notoriety in November when Savalox and Steamboat Springs High School junior Kayla Guettich were invited to speak about bullying and preventing suicide in front of more than 2,000 people at an Erase Hate event in Tampa, Fla.

Back here in Routt County, Savalox is hoping to expand the program, including to to the South Routt and Hayden school districts.

"We’re making a difference in every which way we can," she said.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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