CHESTERFIELD, Va. -- A special event Friday is focused on helping students cope with issues like depression and anxiety in the memory of a Chesterfield teenager.
The Highlands of Chesterfield community is holding a 3.12 mile walk around the neighborhood to remember and celebrate the life of 13-year-old Sophia Studer. Friday would have been her fourteenth birthday.
“She was just full of joy, full of life, full of joy, making everyone laugh, very respectful, Christ centered," explained Michelle Westbay, who's helping organize the walk. "She really did just bring everyone so much joy.”
Studer was an eighth grader at Matoaca Middle School and took her own life on Jan. 8. Her death has hit the community hard, and they want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
"Sophia could help save lives and help lead people to Christ," said Westbay. "We've already seen it. So many people have reached out to the family and said, you know, I was down that path. And I learned about Sophia and you know, now I'm praying, and I'm coming out of it. And that's all we can hope for."
Friday's event is called “Steps for Sophia," and inspirational signs will be placed around the 5K course.
Westbay is worried about the rise in mental health issues that she said have come with virtual and hybrid learning, and she wants children to know they’re not alone
"I mean, I've heard other stories since then that, you know, children have taken their own life, and it's unimaginable, and it shouldn't be happening," Westbay explained.
The event kicks off at 4 p.m. Friday near the Highlands pool and tennis courts. Mental health and suicide prevention advocates will be on site to provide resources.
If you aren’t able to attend in person, organizers ask that you walk or run a 5k on your own and post a picture on social media with #DoItForSophia.
Sophia’s friends and family are also working to start a foundation for suicide prevention called “Walk in the Light” in her honor. You can support the start up for this foundation through donations via Venmo @SophiaStuder715.
If you or your child needs help right away, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).