BCSP/NAMI Silver Ribbon Award 2015
Betsy Nichols and Joann Farrell
Dalton residents Betsy Nichols and Joann Farrell came to the Berkshire Coalition for Suicide Prevention in 2012, hoping to create a project to benefit teens that are struggling with mental health issues and thereby reduce youth suicide in the Berkshires. With the BCSP Board’s enthusiastic approval, they created a fundraiser entitled the “Purgatory Road Haunted Hayride” to take place two weekends in October.
Betsy and Joann are responsible for enlisting the support of many local businesses and volunteers to construct and carry out a Halloween event that attracts over a thousand Berkshire residents every year. With such great organizational skills, they are able to entertain nearly 300 people per night for 2 consecutive weekends at $10 per ticket on a fun-filled hayride across the Nichols’ family farm.
They inspire volunteers, particularly teenagers from high schools and colleges across the region, to participate. These moaning and shrieking teen actors convincingly give participants a spooky evening of fun, riding through fields and woods, or feeling their way on foot through haunted structures and corn mazes. Each wagon-load “chaperone” ensures that everyone returns safe and unharmed from their 30 minute ride, while narrating the theme and introducing the worthy cause of suicide prevention. Betsy and Joann have created a fun event that makes it okay to talk about such a serious topic.
Since it began, this event has raised over $50,000 for teen suicide prevention programs in the Berkshires. Perhaps just as important, it has been a vehicle to mobilize the community in an effort to raise awareness, particularly to break down the stigma that often prevents us from talking about suicide. In addition to soliciting for donations, this dynamic duo of Betsy and Joann provide an honorable event that promotes support to our youth, through the distribution of teen resource wallet cards and the Crisis-Text-Line wristbands each evening of the event. Businesses, traffic directors, ticket-takers, graphic designers, refreshment table staff, guides, actors, narrators and other residents (about 50 volunteers each year) have generously donated their talents and time to make this such a success – and teens continue to spread the word amongst each other.
We are pleased to honor Betsy Nichols and Joann Farrell with the BCSP/NAMI Silver Ribbon Award, because they truly are champions for teen suicide prevention in the Berkshires!