Walk of Hope draws large crowd to Allison Park Saturday.

The fifth annual Walk of Hope in Sleepy Eye and the 13th annual nationwide, took place Saturday at Allison Park.

A large crowd of people gathered to watch a presentation by SPOTS (Students Performing on Tough Situations) and were welcomed by Emily Kelley, a certified health education specialist trained presentor for the Brown County Yellow Ribbon Program.

After the presentations, those gathered chose a yellow balloon to write on and release during their walk along the bike trail.

“We release the balloons as a symbol that we will never forget, but remember to live,” said Kelley.

The Yellow Ribbon program was founded in 1994 by the parents of a teen, Mike Emme, who took his life.

The legacy started when Mike rescued a 1968 Ford Mustang from a field where it had sat neglected. He bought it, rebuilt it and painted it bright yellow. As Mike and his mustang became more and more active helping other teens and friends–giving them rides to and from school and work, he became known as “Mustang Mike.” 

As the teens gathered to comfort the family and each other, they discussed the tragedy of losing Mike. Mike’s mom talked with teens about creating mementos that others could have to remember him with and she decided that yellow would be used in honor of the cherished yellow mustang.

Cards were made with the message that to reach out for help, to never commit suicide, that it’s okay to Ask4Help.

On the night before Mike’s memorial services, his friends shared their grief and tears as they pinned ribbons on the cards. Five hundred ribbon cards were placed in a basket and set out at his services. All the ribbon cards were gone at the end of the services.

Teens soon began to call and write, asking for those yellow ribbon cards. The program began to spread and save lives. The program is worldwide today, continuing to grow and reach youth with help and comfort.

 The yellow ribbon became the symbol of the program in memory of his cherished ’68 yellow mustang.

The heart in the middle of the ribbon is the symbol of the survivors left behind when loved ones die.

The Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program Brown County Chapter is located in New Ulm.

For more information, log onto www.yellowribbon.org.