April 29 – CHEYENNE – Taco John’s announced Thursday that it will partner with Jonah Bank of Wyoming and the Grace for 2 Brothers Foundation to raise funds for local suicide prevention efforts during the month of May.
From May 1-31, participating Taco John’s and Jonah Bank locations will be accepting donations for the cause, with all proceeds going towards awareness and prevention efforts, the organizations said in a news release.
In Laramie County, these funds will go to Grace for 2 Brothers, a Cheyenne-based organization dedicated to suicide prevention through awareness and education.
Small businesses who donate $200 or more at Jonah Bank branches will be entered into a raffle for a free lunch prepared by Taco John’s.
“Wyoming’s suicide rate is double the national average and more than triple the lowest rate of any other U.S. state or territory,” the press release said.
In 2020, Wyoming ranked number one per capita for suicide deaths in the United States, according to SAVE.org – 31.3 people per 100,000. Wyoming has also led the nation in suicides since 2018 and has been in the top five since 2014.
“Suicides not only leave communities in mourning, they also have financial and economic impacts,” the statement said. “Exposure to a single suicide affects approximately 135 people, including six (with) major life disruptions. Each suicide costs an average of $1.5 million in lost productivity and medical costs.”
May has been designated nationally as Mental Health Awareness Month since 1949, when it was first recognized by a non-profit organization now known as Mental HealthAmerica.
Jeremy Bay, executive director of Grace for 2 Brothers, said the proceeds from the fundraiser will help their organization keep the services they provide as free as possible. These include training on suicide intervention, access to case management services that can help with prevention, and helping those affected by suicide through the grieving process.
This will be the sixth year Taco John’s has partnered with Jonah Bank and Grace for 2 Brothers to raise money for suicide prevention. In 2015, one of the bank’s founders, Mick McMurry of Casper, died by suicide, the bank’s chief marketing officer, Cidne Skavdahl, told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
“It really impacted not just the bank, but the community – Casper, in particular, and the state of Wyoming and the business community as well,” she said. “So it’s very near and dear to us, and obviously that’s a huge issue.”
In Casper, the money raised will benefit the Natrona County Suicide Prevention Task Force, Skavdahl said.
Taco John cashiers typically ask if customers want to donate when paying for their food, said Taylor Sawyer, field marketing manager for Taco John’s International.
Lobbies at Jonah Bank locations will have glass aquariums to collect donations, or customers can donate through the teller lines, Skavdahl said.
Hannah Black is the criminal justice reporter for the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-633-3128. Follow her on Twitter at @hannahcblack.