Bracelet sales advocate suicide awareness

Story by Mykaela Cross, Assistant Editor

Three students have raised more than a thousand dollars by selling teal and purple bracelets reading “Ofa Tu Mau.” The bracelets are being sold in effort to raise money for the family of sophomore Sione Maumau, who died on Oct. 29.

Sophomore Alex Ekins and his roommates, junior Tyler Sheppard and senior Tyler Douglass, were disheartened by an email sent out to students and faculty about financial troubles and denial of life insurance for Maumau’s family. The three students decided it was time to do something to help.

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Taking their idea of memorial bracelets to Dean of Students Cassy Bailey, they were immediately given the thumbs-up for the operation.

“Bailey was ecstatic about the bracelets,” Ekins said. “She paid for half of them out of her own personal bank account, though we were able to raise and pay her back half of the cost.”

The bracelets went on sale this week and are being sold in the Long Student Center, in Bailey’s office and also individually as Ekins, Sheppard and Douglass sell them out of their backpacks.

“Tuesday alone we sold more than $700 worth of bracelets,” Ekins said. “Faculty are buying them too, though most of our sales have been to students.”

Bailey is both selling and purchasing the bracelets and was a fan of the bracelet idea from the start.

“I commend the three men for thinking in such a positive way that they can take change and bring something positive out of it,” Bailey said. “I know I’m still struggling with the loss, but I believe the bracelets are a source of acceptance for us on campus.”

Bailey purchased more than 1,300 bracelets and sold most of them quickly.

“I think I had six different sized bags, and they’re almost gone now,” Bailey said.

The teal and purple bracelets containing the message “Ofa Tu Mau”, which means “I love Mau” in Tongan, are colored for suicide awareness and prevention and also read “#BakerStrong” and “Never Walk Alone” to remind students of Maumau and the support system at Baker.

Sophomore Brittney Harmon purchased one of the bracelets. She was given one at the funeral service for Maumau that is a little different than the Baker bracelets, but contains the same main message. Harmon is one of the students who is thankful for the bracelets and their reminder.

“Every time I look at it, it’s a reminder that I need to be positive and give that positivity to the people around me, because I never really know who’s struggling,” Harmon said.

Harmon has already seen many students around campus with their bracelets on and is grateful that she could be a part of the help for Maumau’s family.

“It’s important for the family to have the funds they need right now,” Harmon said. “But it also shows that we’re in this together and that we have each others’ backs.”

Anyone looking to help Maumau’s family during this time can donate to a GoFundMe account set up online, donate to the collections at the business office on campus, or purchase bracelets through Ekins or Bailey.