15 years ago, my family lost a close friend. Erika Neuckranz lost her life to adolescent depression at just 14 years old. Erika was like a 3rd sister to me, similar in age to my two older sisters. She was our next door neighbor in Chicago, and one of the brightest spirits I can remember.
At just 10 years old, as a result of Erika’s loss, I learned about depression and mental illness. While I didn’t quite understand it at the time, I was lucky to be able to have a family that talked about it openly and encouraged help whenever it was needed. Plenty of teenagers aren’t this lucky, and grow up in environments where mental illness is stigmatized and support systems view it as a weakness.
In 2004, Erika’s parents, Tom and Ginny Neuckranz, founded Erika’s Lighthouse in an effort to raise awareness about mental health and prevent other teenagers from suffering. Today, Erika’s Lighthouse is known as one of the premier providers of middle school and high school depression curricula, teen-to-teen outreach, and online resources, with a national presence in 362 schools and 39 states.
I am proud to say that I will be running the 2019 Chicago Marathon in Erika’s honor. This will be my first (and probably only) marathon, and I’m so excited to be able to fund-raise for such an important cause. I can’t wait to see the difference that Erika’s Lighthouse will continue to make in the future, and for mental illness and depression to get out of the dark!
Learn more about Erika’s Lighthouse and help “Get Depression Out of the Dark”