GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For one Road Warrior preparing for Saturday’s Amway River Bank Run, every mile she runs will be in memory of her son.
She’s running in honor of her son.
“My baby, first born. He would be 23,” Clapper said.
Christopher Bates Jr., Clapper’s son, died by suicide at age 22.
“He was quiet. He got very quiet towards the end,” Clapper said.
For years, Clapper found peace in running. She says it started about 15 years ago when she was out on a walk with friends and they decided to stop walking and start running.
“It just felt better. You know stress from life. Being out with my girlfriends running, we can talk about anything,” Clapper said.
In the aftermath of her son’s death, she lost the will to run.
“I isolated myself. I didn’t feel like getting up and running. Even though I knew it would make me feel better,” Clapper said.
It was her husband who encouraged her to run again for Chris.
Clapper was chosen to be a River Bank Run Road Warrior and raise awareness about suicide and support for family members left behind.
“A lot of mornings coming down to meet the Road Warriors, I’m reminded of that and it’s difficult. I try to just, alright get your head in the game, you’re doing this for Chris,” Clapper said.
She has found a whole new support group of women by preparing for the run.
“There are all these little reminders but you get out there, and you run and you’re talking with the ladies learning about them and their struggles. We’re kind of all out there for the same reason,” Clapper said.
Clapper and her family have also found help with a support group through the West Michigan Survivors of Suicide. It’s something she encourages everyone touched by suicide to seek out.
“This happens to lots of families. Mental illness is real. It touches all of us,” Clapper said.