Waukon native Allie Klein forms The Driftless Foundation, an organization with suicide prevention as its primary goal

Allie Klein ...
Allie Klein ...

by Julie Berg-Raymond

According to a report from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), suicide remains one of the leading causes of death in the world, accounting for one in every 100 deaths. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the risk factors associated with suicidal behaviors and calls for prioritizing its prevention,” PAHO reports.

Allie Klein, born in Waukon and living now in Prairie du Chien, WI, founded the Driftless Foundation in 2020 to provide “outreach to our local Driftless Area communities in the area of mental health awareness and suicide prevention” (thedriftlessfoundation.org).

“I have struggled with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts, myself; and I have lost many friends to this illness,” Klein says. “Knowing how hard 2020 was on my mental health, I knew we needed to do something to help others who could be struggling in our rural communities.”

The Foundation has held social events to get people out and connected, and to educate and discuss these topics with people - “to help normalize talking about it and to help stop the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness,” Klein says. She says it’s a myth “that talking about suicide causes spikes. (Talking about it) actually allows people to open up and feel they can discuss that they are having problems,” she says. “We as a society need to make it more of an okay topic to talk about.”

Other members of the Driftless Foundation include Maria Baker (vice president), Amanda Fahey (secretary), Brittany Marley/Emily Rocksvold, (treasurer); and volunteers Ryan Baker, Alex Berge, Tyler Baughman, Cory McGeough, Tom Schaefer and Cyndi Scheetz.

The Driftless Foundation held a fundraising event, its first annual Ice Fisheree, in Prairie du Chien, WI last year. The event helped them donate money to organizations like Northeast Iowa Behavioral Health, County Department of Human Services offices and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Wisconsin. The Foundation is hosting its second annual Ice Fisheree for Suicide Awareness and Prevention at the Crooked Oar in Prairie du Chien this Saturday, January 15. The event includes a silent auction, door prizes, live music and raffles. All proceeds go to mental health and suicide awareness programs in the local Driftless Area. The event is being held during Wisconsin free fishing weekend; there is no need for a license. Cash prizes will be awarded for the top three places in each category.

Pre-registration is available at the Crooked Oar in Prairie du Chien. Pre-registration is offered at a discounted rate from the registration fee on the day of the event. Fishing opens at 6 a.m., and a bake sale will be open until baked goods are gone. At 9 a.m., door prizes will be drawn; drawings will continue every hour until weigh-in. Ice Pong, a kids’ table, and sledding also begins at 9 a.m. A lunch special will be available at 11 a.m., and the 50/50s begin. Mike McAbee will perform beginning at 1 p.m. At 3 p.m., Curtis Goodman will perform acoustic rock. Fishing closes at 5 p.m. At 5:30 p.m., the Eskimo Brothers featuring Leah Strong perform, and s’mores and hot cocoa will be provided by the fire. The large raffle drawing is at 7:30 p.m., and the silent auction closes. American Standard will perform at 8 p.m., concluding the event.

This year, the Driftless Foundation announces the launch of its Driftless Area Warrior Project - focused on raising funds for Driftless Area veterans and service members. In recognition of “the 22 veterans who lose their battle with suicide every day,” 22 percent of all proceeds from this year’s Ice Fisheree will go directly to the Driftless Warrior Project to help local veterans in need. Applications to receive assistance from the Project are being accepted at the Foundation’s website (thedriftlessfoundation.org). Klein says people need each other now more than ever. “As a community we can be the difference; if we can save just one life, we have accomplished our mission.” For more information, go to www.thedriftlessfoundation.org, email driftlessfoundation@gmail.com or look for the organization on social media.

For those who are struggling or who know someone who is struggling, the following resources are readily available:
• National Suicide Prevention Hotline - 1-800-273-8255
• Crisis Text Line - Text Hello to 741741
• YouthLine - Text teen2teen to 839863 or call 1 -877-968-8491
• Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline - 1-800-422-4453
• National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-7233
• SAMHSA National Helpline - 1-800-662-4357.