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With a little help from their friends: Mental health program comes to KSS

Fergus Falls Daily Journal - 2/7/2024

Feb. 7—Addressing mental health importance and suicide prevention isn't an easy thing to do, especially when the audience is children or teens. When Rylynn Krein saw posts on Facebook from a family friend, Jessica Snyder, who was involved in something called Duck Cup Memorial, it caught her attention.

The Duck Cup Memorial Fund is a nonprofit organization formed of graduates from New Prague High School Class of 2000. When the class lost a classmate to suicide in 2001, they were devastated. Years later, they started an organization dedicated to bringing mental health awareness and suicide prevention to students. Through fundraising and generous donations, the organization has grown exponentially. In 2022, they reached over 35,000 individuals across the state and beyond.

Krein realized that students at her school needed this support but didn't know where to start. "I had no idea how to get something like this going, so I emailed every member from Duck Cup," she said. When she heard back from each person she had contacted, Krein knew this organization was special. "I felt so seen and heard about my concern for our community."

The members of Duck Cup assured her that they would do everything they could to get some support for Fergus Falls students.

After telling her close friends about the organization and what they offered, Krein formed a supportive team to make hosting an event at their school a reality. Annika Jyrkas, Aubrie Bauman, Ella Starzl, Madi Budke, and Karyssa Eberle joined Krien and they hit the ground running. They thought of advertising ideas to spread the word about the event to their school and community.

Bauman said, "My involvement included configuring a logo for both posters and the design of the shirts for the fundraiser."

Planning the event was one task, and fundraising was another. "We went out in our community and asked for donations for Duck Cup and we had so much support from our community that I knew I had made the right decision to get Duck Cup to Fergus Falls," explained Krein. They also sold T-shirts to collect donations. Overall, they were able to send $2,000 to Duck Cup in donations.

Kennedy Secondary School Principal Mark Anderson explained the program's impact. "It allowed everyone to hear about the importance of mental health and suicide awareness and how each of us has the ability each day to support someone who needs something extra from any given person on that day. It allowed students to hear again that it is OK not to be OK, just make sure you find your person to talk to, to get the support you need.

The KSS student body has experienced loss due to suicide, and many students struggle with mental illness in silence. Bringing something like this to their school was important to the girls. Starzl said, "Suicide is a super important thing to talk about and it had impacted just about everyone in our school's lives in some way."

The notion of not feeling alone was an important aspect of the involvement for all of the girls who worked to bring this to their town.

"Growing up and evolving through high school, mental health and suicide had never been a strong topic of conversation for students," Krein said. Through becoming familiar with Duck Cup, she knew this would get the conversation going and give students tools they need to ask for help and talk about how they are feeling. "My hope for after the Duck Cup assembly was that students would feel heard, seen and not alone. I hoped students would recognize that they weren't the only ones feeling the way they did."

With school work, athletics, extra curricular clubs and other activities, students have an increasing amount of pressure to get it all done and get it all done on time and correctly. Add to that worrying about their future education and employment goals, social media pressure and feeling the need to meet expectations of others. Programs like the one facilitated by Duck Cup gives students information and words to describe what they are feeling. It helps them feel a sense of hope and minimizes the stigma associated with mental illness and the need for help.

Anderson said, "Each of the young ladies has an amazing future awaiting them. I am more proud of what they do for others than I am about how great they do academically or in athletics. Those things are what they do, being a great person takes effort and means more to the people they are around every day. As part of our teaching relicense, we are required to take suicide awareness training to get relicensed. This year we added another step in our trauma-informed training that allows staff the opportunity to support our students and each other better."

The Duck Cup Memorial brought something very crucial and memorable to Fergus Falls and the students at KSS. Krein said, "The love and support they showed me, my friends and family and most importantly our school was so greatly appreciated and I am so grateful for their organization."

If someone is struggling with mental illness or suicidal thoughts, help is available by dialing 988.

More information about Duck Cup Memorial can be found by visiting


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