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In March of last year, I decided to leave my career as an Executive Assistant at a growing company to pursue my photography business full-time and I haven’t looked back! A big piece of this was allowing me a flexible schedule giving me more time with my children, husband, and family. My family is very important to me; in fact, I am the fourth generation that has lived in Elk River. Both of my parents grew up here, both sets of my grandparents, and even my great grandparents lived in Elk River. I have very deep roots here and to be honest, I sincerely love the city I live in. Even though we are a growing and thriving community, I feel like we still have that “small town” feel.
As a small business owner, I now, more than ever, feel the importance of giving back to this wonderful community that I call home. Whether it’s helping a neighbor shovel their driveway or volunteering at different community events, I think it’s important to show community involvement and engagement in order to maintain that “small town” feel. On Valentine’s Day last year, my husband Todd got me one of the most thoughtful gifts. He drove us down to St. Paul and met up with the author of the book called “Silent Impact”, Joe Schmit. (also a well known Sportscaster from KSTP Channel 5 News) Joe’s book, “Silent Impact”, tells stories of influence, through purpose, persistence and passion.
Joe’s book really filled a void for me and it also lit a fire inside! In one of the last chapters of the book (The Second Thank You, page 105) Joe tells a story about a boy named Sam Richter and a girl named Kristin. Kristin had been the victim of bullying; Sam was a star athlete who eventually played NCAA Division I Football. Sam stood up for Kristin during a bullying incident in school and Kristin never forgot about it. Kristin wrote Sam a thank you letter twenty-three years after graduating from High School. Her letter reminded Sam of the bullying incident in which he stood up for her, and that he saved her life. She said that she was at the lowest point in her life that day and she was going to go home, take a bunch of sleeping pills, and hope to never wake up. She was ready to do anything to stop the pain. Sam saved Kristin’s life that day by standing up for her, a complete stranger. He simply stood up to a bully and saved a life. If that’s not impactful, I don’t know what is.
I decided it was time to take control of my own depression and anxiety and so I began to run. Running was not something that I enjoyed, however, I knew that exercise made me feel better and is clinically proven to help with depression. I began seeing a counselor on a regular basis and in September I started taking anti-depressant medication. Whenever I ran, I would talk about it. I would post a picture of Lake Orono or the Mississippi River on Facebook or Instagramwith the hash tag #Run4MentalHealth. It was uplifting to me to talk about it. It felt good to spread the truth about depression and what I was doing to help myself feel better. I wanted people to know that suicide and depression didn’t need to be taboo anymore.
Not everyone thinks of depression or anxiety as a disease, and that is something I am hoping to change. I want people to know that they are not alone and that depression is not something to be ashamed about. I have depression and I’m proud of it! For me, depression isn’t something I hide. My husband knows about it, my family knows about it, my friends know about it. The more people you can talk to about your depression, the better.
Last June, I formed a committee and a non-profit event called the Thumbs Up High 5K. The event is a run, walk, bike and inline-skating event supporting mental health and suicide awareness. The event was formed after I lost my maternal grandfather to suicide. My grandpa was a big part of my life and after he passed away, I felt the need to do something more for people struggling with depression. Unfortunately, suicide has impacted me many times throughout my life, including two cousins, many friends and my Grandpa.
The event took place on October 4th, in Historic Downtown Elk River at Rivers Edge Commons Park and hosted by McCoy’s Irish Pub. The event location was specifically chosen to be Downtown Elk River so that we could also give back to those small businesses.
Joe Schmit was the keynote speaker at the opening ceremony. His speech was compelling. The event hosted over 500 runners, walker, bikers and roller-bladers. The event raised over $14,000 and after expenses we were able to donate $9,500 to the Elk River Yellow Ribbon Group at the Elk River High School (ISD 728).
The Yellow Ribbon Group formed in the year 2000 when I graduated from High School. The group formed after several suicides of youth in our community and also the Principal at the Alternative Learning Center. To this day, this group is active and spreading awareness about depression and the signs of suicide or someone who is suicidal. I had the great pleasure of working with the Student Advisor of the YRG (Yellow Ribbon Group), Mrs. Wendy Hidde, and both of the Co-President’s of the group, Annie Christensen and Myah Christenson. These three ladies are spreading so much good in that school and I am so honored to have worked with them on this event! The other members of the Thumbs Up High 5K Committee include: Jessica Hackenmueller (Vice-President), Jody Kreuser (Treasurer), Dan Kreuser (Safety & Event Operations), Sarah Borher (Registration & Kids 1K Fun Run).
What this event has shown me and taught me is how amazing my community is and how rewarding it can be to give back as a business owner. There is much good here! The amount of support that our family has been shown absolutely blows my mind. It was a very humbling and surreal day for me, but more importantly, it was a day for people to mourn the loss of loved ones who died by suicide, it was a day to celebrate their lives, and it was a day to come together as a community, as neighbors, strangers, friends, and people from afar to come together for a common good.
Please continue to spread awareness and talk about depression and the signs of suicide. Please visit our website for more information or ways to get help for yourself or for someone you love.
Katie Shatusky is the owner of KTBUG Photo & Design in Elk River, MN. KTBUG Design was born in 2008 creating custom wedding invitations, stationary, and baby announcements. In April 2013, Katie added professional photography to my business and changed the name to KTBUG Photo & Design.
Please visit www.ThumbsUpHigh5K.com if you have an interest in participating or donating, or even if you just have questions.