WESTMINSTER — Emma Graham’s heart rate will be going up so that the suicide rate among veterans drops down.
“My goal is to bike 500 miles and I will be riding the stationary bike I have at home. I will use my phone to track my mileage, date and time of every ride,” said the Bellows Falls senior, who plans on starting on Monday and finishing by Feb. 21, 2021.
The Chester resident is taking on the challenge for her senior project and she will be raising money for veteran suicide prevention.
“There are no words to express the gratitude I have for our veterans and their bravery, which is why I want to do my part in supporting them when they return home from war. Veterans are 50 percent more likely to commit suicide — this statistic is troubling and I hope all veterans have access to the mental health care they need,” Graham stated.
She is hoping to raise $1,000 for Stop Soldier Suicide, which is a nationally recognized, veteran founded organization that is leading the fight against soldier suicide by providing the mental health support and personalized care that our veterans need.
“Emma has been instrumental in participating in many events as a volunteer with Unit 37 and her focus has always been on giving back to those at Post 37,” mentioned Bellows Falls American Legion President Marcy Smith, whose unit recently donated clothing to 43 homeless veterans in Rutland.
Graham interviewed four Vietnam veterans for her AP World History final project as a sophomore.
“This was truly an eye-opening experience, and I learned of all the horrors and sacrifices our veterans make while serving our country. I do not have any relatives who have served, so this was the first time I ever learned about our veterans’ experiences firsthand, outside of the classroom,” she explained.
The winter weather is what made the Bellows Falls soccer captain decide to do her senior project indoors.
“Since last summer, I have become an avid biker and frequently find myself on crazy, 20-mile excursions. I enjoy biking with friends, and I will typically leave my house in Chester and bike into Bellows Falls and back,” she said. “I wish I could be completing these 500 miles outside, as it is much more enjoyable.”
Graham, who is a frequent volunteer at the American Legion, has played “Taps” on her trumpet for community members each Memorial Day since she was in middle school.
“This was my first noteworthy interaction with the veteran community and I was touched by how moved they were by this 24-note bugle call. I felt a connection to our veteran community and I was inspired to educate myself and volunteer at the Auxiliary,” noted the Bellows Falls senior.
Anyone interested in pitching in, can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. One option for businesses is to send a small donation for every mile that Graham pedals.