On Saturday morning, for the second year running, dozens of people gathered at the Owl’s Nest for Kimmie’s Kruise for Suicide Awareness and Prevention. People gathered into the restaurant and bar, which closed its doors for the morning to host the event, in preparation of the 11 a.m. departure from the parking lot. A legion of motorcycles, classic cars and everyday vehicles formed a procession. The ride honors the memory of Kimberly Stronach, a Poynette woman who committed suicide on Nov. 14, 2016.
In the wake of Kimberly’s passing, family members wanted to raise awareness of mental health risks, and push back against the stigma surrounding suicide. Last year, the event was planned in a hurry — just a month ahead of the date of the ride. Still, 55 cars showed up for the cause. This year, more planning has taken place, and the family teamed with Krystal Rykiel of Prevent Suicide Columbia County to raise money for efforts combating suicide and untreated mental illness. The ride offered six raffle prizes, and collected donations for ride registrations, and sold purple can koozies and t-shirts.
Kimberly’s brother Kurt Stronach said the family hopes to provide some input on how the money raised is spent to combat suicide.
Kurt said Kimberly was a “tough girl” but after her suicide, he realized what other families might be going through. He and the rest of Kimberly’s family felt compelled to help other families avoid a similar tragedy.
He said he wants those efforts to meet those in need where they are, rather than requiring those suffering to seek out treatment themselves. “We need to be proactive and go after the people that are suffering,” he said. “I don’t want magnets or just a call-in line. We want to make it easier for everyone who needs help.”
It did not take much prompting to hear people speak about the kind of woman Kimberly was.
Kurt said his sister was “bright, full of life, tough and didn’t take (guff) from nobody.”
Jessica Cross was one of Kimberly’s best friends. She remembered Kimberly’s “amazing voice” from her sitting out at a swimming pool and singing songs for her friends, and her “best laugh ever.”
“And I miss her a lot. I’m glad there’s a good turn-out,” Cross said, her voice breaking slightly.
Childhood friend Beau Whelan said he remembers Kimberly as “bubbly, full of laughter and a complete smart (aleck).”
Whelan said the event serves as a “heads-up” for the community. “It’s here, it happens,” he said.
Kimberly’s mother Mary Lou needed a steady arm to navigate the crowded restaurant Saturday morning. Her pneumonia had robbed her of her balance. She was in urgent care the day before. “No way was I going to miss today,” she said.
Mary Lou remembers the hordes of people, 800 by her count, that came to her funeral. “We were there for seven hours,” she said. “It’s a testament to our family, and that Kim was so well-liked.”
Shawn Gee owns Country Customs in Portage, Wis., and said he worked 16-hour days getting vehicles ready for the ride. He was in his shop Saturday morning, in fact, from 3 to 6:30 a.m., fixing one last car. A total of 76 vehicles took part in this year’s ‘Kimmie’s Kruise’ procession, up from last year’s count of 55.
The family is still calculating costs of the shirts and can sleeves, but hopes to donate upwards of $2,000 to the Prevent Suicide Columbia County Coalition.