The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Alumnus goes the distance for suicide awareness

Three years ago the tragic death of a Sigma Phi Epsilon member impacted the lives of Eastern students, including his fraternity brothers. Mike Nowak was one of these students. From the loss of a friend to suicide, Nowak turned his way of coping into a non-profit organization called “Just a Mile.”

With a goal to raise money and spread suicide awareness, Nowak, a 2008 Eastern alumnus, plans on running a marathon in all 50 states.

Nowak started “Just a Mile” after the loss of fellow Sig Ep brother Jesse Mounce to suicide in 2008.

On Feb. 8, 2008, Mounce, a sophomore communication studies major at the time, was found dead in his Ninth Street apartment. Coles County Coroner Michael Nichols told The Daily Eastern News in a Feb. 8, 2008 issue that Mounce’s injuries were “apparently self-inflicted.”

Nowak said after Mounce’s death, running was like a sort of therapy for him.

“I used it as a way to just center myself a clear my mind,” Nowak said.

Nowak later ran the Chicago Marathon, his first marathon and an item on his bucket list.

Andrew Shipp, a senior business management major and member of Sig Ep, said Mounce’s death had a wide impact.

“It really had a large impact on my fraternity and I know it had a big, even bigger impact on (Nowak),” Shipp said.

Nowak said he decided that if he was going to run, he should run for a reason and raise money and awareness for suicide along the way. The “Just a Mile” foundation was created and Nowak made it his goal to run a marathon in all 50 states while raising at least $1,000 for each marathon for the organization.

“Just a Mile,” or “J.A.M.,” taken from the initials of Mounce, lends the slogan “managing life’s marathon one mile at a time.”

Shipp said from his perspective, running one marathon is a feat, but running 50 marathons is something that is usually unheard of. Shipp said Nowak’s dedication blows him away.

“I couldn’t even imagine trying to do what he’s doing,” Shipp said.

This year Nowak said he plans on running marathons in seven different states: Tennessee, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Missouri, Arkansas and California.

The “Just a Mile” committee is made up of eight people: Nowak, Mounce’s mother and sister, two other Sig Ep alumni and Charles “Chuck” Eberly, Sig Ep’s adviser.

“Mike has taken it upon himself to raise money for suicide prevention,” Eberly said.

Nowak said the “Just a Mile” foundation really wants to focus on college students. Nowak said he raises money for the marathons through a letter campaign, which asks for donations. He also said the foundation is planning a fundraising event for summer in the Chicago-land area.

Eberly also said members of Sig Ep are selling wristbands to raise money for “Just a Mile.”

Nowak said the advice he gives to students struggling with stress and depression is to break it down into little pieces so it is more manageable.

“(Nowak) transformed his grief into ‘Just a Mile,'” Eberly said.

He commented that from the tragedy of Mounce’s death, good was created by Nowak and Sig Ep members, Mike Leon and Jimmy Friesema, through their self-motivated programs. Eberly said these men have learned a great deal through these programs.

“They are engaged as learners in a way that few students are engaged in the classroom,” Eberly said.

Sam Bohne can be reached at 581-7942 or [email protected].

Alumnus goes the distance for suicide awareness

Alumnus goes the distance for suicide awareness

Mike Nowak, an Eastern graduate and founder of the Just A Mile Foundation, tells the story of his friend and Sigma Phi Epsilon brother Jesse Mounce during Rock the Fight For Life in 7th Street Underground. Mounce committed suicide in February 2008, which


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