Survivors seek ‘hope through dance’

More than 100 dancers will take the stage Sept. 5 at the Woodstock Opera House to offer hope to survivors of suicide.

In its fifth year, “Hope Through Dance” is hosted by the Laura Twirls Suicide Awareness Foundation in memory of Laura Maceika, who took her own life in 2009. Her Woodstock mother, Jeri Pulver, formed the foundation after Maceika’s death at age 21.

Maceika, who suffered from depression, was a professional dancer with Chicago Dance Crash at the time of her death.

“As you can imagine, I was quite devastated and was certain someone was playing some sick joke on me,” Pulver remembered. “From the very beginning, it was, ‘This happened for a reason.’”

Pulver set out to fight the stigma often associated with suicide and mental illness.

The fundraiser will bring together dancers from Chicago Dance Crash, Broadway Academy of Art and Dance, Center for Ballroom and Dance, Envision, McDance, Ashley & Mari Dance Company, Madison Visionary Contemporary Dance, Judith Svalander School of Ballet and ProDance Elite.

It also will include a silent auction and raffle.

“The community has just really been amazing,” Pulver said.

Along with raising money for programs, including those that help fund mental health services not covered by insurance, the event keeps the issue in the forefront.

Similar to cancer, mental illness is a disease, and suicide can be the end result, Pulver said.

“I decided I wanted to incorporate a foundation that would support mental health, and I go out and I speak about mental health and the stigma associated with suicide,” she said.

“With mental health and someone taking their own life, they label it. With labeling it, then comes the stigma and the guilt and all of the emotional things that go along with the grief process that are differnet than going through the grief process with someone who had cancer or those types of things.”

In hosting “Hope Through Dance,” the money raised will go toward local programs hosted by the Centegra Health System Foundation. This year’s event will focus on a survivors of suicide support group and the group’s need for a library of resources, Pulver said.

“We’ve been taking baby steps every year,” she said.

The event – scheduled for 8 p.m. Sept. 5 at the Woodstock Opera House, 121 W. Van Buren St., Woodstock – costs $28 for adults and $18 for students.

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