Eddie Strege put smiles on the faces of others every day of his life, even as he struggled to find his own happiness. On March 17, 2014, the gregarious bartender, father and husband shocked his family and friends when he died by suicide at age 32.
Today, a fund created in his memory is helping others who struggle with mental-health issues. The Mental Health Awareness Fund announced that it has granted $15,000 to the STRIDE program, the United Way’s effort to put a mental-health professional in each Door County school. Last year the fund granted $10,000 to the program. The fund is supported in large part through the Little Eddie Big Cup, a golf fundraiser held each fall at Peninsula Golf Course that attracts 150 participants and volunteers, including Strege’s friends and family, for a day on the links that he loved.
“School-aged children are a demographic we are particularly passionate about helping, as Ed was our classmate,” said Rachel Willems, a member of the Little Eddie Big Cup Planning Committee. “Ed would have loved the day – the people, the energy, the love. His spirit lives in every part of the Little Eddie Big Cup, and we are so proud to be effecting positive change in his name.”
Many students struggle with mental-health issues that go beyond the level that teachers and school counselors are trained to deal with. In Door County, such services are difficult or impossible to find, leaving many families struggling to make appointments in Green Bay or beyond, missing valuable class time or skipping services altogether. The STRIDE program takes the help students need right to the schools.
The money granted from the Mental Health Awareness Fund will be used solely for one-to-one counseling time. STRIDE’s ultimate goal is to provide mental-health services for all youth in need, regardless of where they live, where they attend school or their financial status.
The Mental Health Awareness Fund has also donated $11,000 during the last two years to Challenge Day, in which Gibraltar, Sevastopol and Sturgeon Bay High Schools will be participating during the 2019-20 school year. Challenge Day uses interactive and energetic activities and programs to provide teens and adults with tools to break down the walls of separation and isolation and replace them with compassion. The program is designed to inspire people to live, study and work in an environment of acceptance, love and respect. The sixth annual Little Eddie Big Cup will take place Sunday, Sept. 29. Foursomes for the tournament are already sold out, but those who would like to make a contribution can mail a check payable to Little Eddie Big Cup to Little Eddie Big Cup, P.O. Box 40, Ephraim, WI 54211.