Elk River has been designated an “Energy City” in Minnesota, and in the historic downtown, there’s a palpable energy in one of the buildings.
The Northwestern non-profit organization called Thumbs Up for mental health was founded by Katie Shatusky.
“It’s just a safe place for kids to come and hang out,” Shatusky said.
Thumbs Up offers eight programs, including an after-school space for teens.
“It all kind of started with my grandfather,” Shatusky explained. Her grandfather, Bob, suffered from depression and committed suicide.
“My grandmother didn’t want to talk about grandfather’s death. … It was generational,” Shatusky said. “Grandpa also lost one of his brothers to suicide.”
As Katie struggled and searched for purpose, she read a story from the book “Silent Impact” by Joe Schmit of KSTP.
“My husband Todd gave me this amazing book by you for Valentine’s Day, and I couldn’t put it down,” Shatusky told Schmit, noting that the chapter she read was “The Story by Joe Mauer.
The same Joe Mauer is a Minnesota Twins legend who played 15 years for his hometown team. Mauer was a six-time All-Star, three-time batting champion and American League MVP in 2009. His jersey number is retired by the Twins.
Twenty-one years ago, Mauer was a senior at Cretin-Derham Hall High School. He was one of the best high school athletes Minnesota State had ever produced. He was drafted by every major college football program to be their starting quarterback and was an all-state guard in basketball.
But baseball was Mauer’s best sport, and with the first-ever pick in the amateur draft, the Minnesota Twins took it.
In Mauer’s senior year, after his fourth hour of class, he accompanied a student named Mike Hally to the dining hall and invited him to sit at his table. Hally is blind and normally sits down to lunch alone. But he was never alone again.
This story and her grandfather’s tragedy had an impact on Katie Shatusky.
“I thought… ‘Someone like that can do something for others, why can’t I do something?’ “, explained Shatusky. “I was actually out for a run one day, and I’ll never forget that moment. I actually stopped, I was on the Orono bridge, I took a picture of my shoes and I tagged “run for sanity” on social media.
“That’s kind of where my ‘Aha!’ Now is the time. How can I have a quiet impact and do something for others who are struggling and also help families who have lost loved ones to suicide?” says Shatusky.
Twenty-one years later, in the same high school, in the same canteen, at the same table, two friends reunited.
It wasn’t long before the Mauers and Hallys were walking down memory lane — the hallways they navigated together almost every day two decades ago.
“If more athletes followed his lead, there would be fewer kids alone with no one to eat with,” Hally said of their reunion. Mauer agreed, telling 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, “You treat people the way you want to be treated. You treat people with respect, and usually it gets back to you.
The reunion was filmed because Thumbs Up knows the power of this story could change minds and even change lives.
“What I would love for this video is for it to be shown in every main class as well, and the kids can just see Joe and what he did for Mike that day,” Shatusky said. . “I hope it just inspires them to say, ‘You know what, I see someone sitting alone. There’s no reason they can’t come and sit at our table too.
Mauer said he was doing the right thing by inviting Hally to his table, and maybe the video will help other kids do the right thing.
“Thank you for your time,” Hally said during their reunion. “The kindness you’ve shown over the short year, we’ve had a great time together, and I’m a better person for that.” Mauer agreed.
The charity Thumbs Up is proof that even in the darkest times there can be light.
“How do we light up a dark subject,” Shatusky explained. “That’s where the boost comes from. It was my grandfather’s thing. At home, he always had a smile on his face and a thumbs up.
A selfless act of kindness and a woman with a purpose proves you don’t have to move on. But when you move forward, amazing things can happen.
“I just think he would be so proud,” Shatusky said. “I think he would have liked to stay, but I hope he knows, oh, I think he’s looking down, throwing a big thumbs up, I hope.”
Here is a list of resources on suicide prevention and mental health:
If you think someone is at risk of suicide, the US Department of Health and Human Services suggests:
- Ask questions to find out if the person is having suicidal thoughts.
- Call the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 Where 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- Seek help from a health or mental health professional. If it is an emergency, take the person to the hospital.
- Remove all items from a person’s home that could be used in a suicide.
- Do not leave the person alone, if possible, until help is available.
The US organization National Suicide Prevention has also compiled a list of resources to help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.