project wake up’s mission: To investigate and fix current inadequacies in mental health awareness and suicide prevention, especially on college campuses

Q|How long have you been involved in this effort?
A| Since 2012.

Q| What made you interested in this particular cause?
A| In 2012, a good friend of mine took her own life. It was my group’s first real experience with suicide and quite frankly, we were very hush-hush about it. She died, but we didn’t talk about why. It was tough as 19-year-olds to lose a friend; it was confusing and stressful on all of us, and we always wondered if we could have done more to prevent it. I started researching mental illness and suicide to figure out warning signs. And despite that, in June 2014, my best friend Ryan took his own life. This time around, I wasn’t going to grieve in the same way. I didn’t want to go through it alone. Ryan was the center of our friend group, and the center of many groups. He had some anxiety but was the happiest guy in the world. I was very vigilant about suicidal warning signs and still didn’t have any idea it was coming. So I wanted to figure out a way to get my friends and myself through this and came up with the idea to tell Ryan’s life story through a biopic.

Q| Tell me how the idea came to be Project Wake Up.
A| I pitched the idea of making a documentary to my friends, knowing it was an ambitious project. They were all so enthusiastic about it, and everyone has been heavily involved since the beginning. We quickly realized it could be about more than just us and Ryan’s life; we could use his story to promote mental health awareness. I had no clue how much it would cost to make the film, so we started by creating a short PSA video for a crowdfunding campaign with a goal of $10,000. We raised that in 20 hours and ended up with $35,000. With that, we got even more serious. A team member’s dad connected us with a friend who owns a production company in L.A., and he was incredibly helpful mapping out what we needed to do to get this made. From there, we hooked up with director Nate Townsend, who was born and raised in St. Louis. He knew of Ryan and, like us, wanted to make a film that really impacted people. We began filming a short last year to show people the quality of feature we could make given the proper funding. We received our nonprofit status last July, which has opened the doors to grants, donors, events, etc. Our first trivia night a few months ago raised $33,000 toward our goal of what’s needed to make a full feature-length film.

Q|If you could do anything for the organization, what would it be?
A| Honestly, I want to just save one life. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to truly know if we achieve that, but no matter how far this gets, it’s a remarkable position to be in. We want to install Wake Up chapters at every college campus across the nation, and we want the documentary to be shown at college orientations and during mental health awareness week. We’ve gotten feedback that we’re helping people already, so I don’t want to stop. We have a unique opportunity to make this film and get it where it needs to go. Young people
are waiting for something like this.

In the Words of fellow volunteer Danny Kerth: Alex is one of those people that shows you the difference between thinking and doing. I still catch myself surprised at times when I look back on the past year and a half and how his ‘far-fetched idea’ has evolved into something so tangible. For Project Wake Up to have the prominence it does now, it needed someone who truly believed in it from its beginning. We’re all there now, but Alex was the first. There’s something about him and his passion that got everyone else to buy in.

corporate hero
Project Wake Up applauds Center Pointe Hospital for its involvement.

meet the project wake up team
Seated: Annie Kocur, Alex Lindley, Morgan Domijan, Nick Rumping. Standing: Nick Kossmeyer, Claudia Rudelic, Elise Leifeld, Andrew Adams, Molly Wilson. Not pictured: Danny Kerth, Victoria Ballard, Andrew Barry, Jack Meyerhoff, Doc Halliday (Photo: Bill Barrett)RO-Project-Wake-Up_4

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Photo: Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton