Running Home for Teens

by Claudia Herrera Hudson


Running Home for Teens is an annual charity fund-raising event created by Dieter Schmitz, a Southern California teenager. The event raises funds for education, awareness, and intervention for teen depression, suicidal tendencies, and substance abuse, an urgent cause, considering suicide is the third leading cause of death for 10- to 19-year-olds.

Schmitz, himself, is the key protagonist in his charity -- running and biking a distance of 75 miles from San Diego (where he is a college freshman) to Laguna Beach High school, his alma mater. His previous expedition in 2004 took him 10 hours, and his next will be an even greater challenge: running from Tijuana, Mexico to Laguna Beach in December of 2005.

Through his run, Schmitz collects donations for Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), a national nonprofit that works to prevent and raise awareness about depression and suicide.

Schmitz has used his 'star' status to help him gain exposure for his charitable crusade. While in high school he participated in MTV's reality show: Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County and is now a familiar face to many teens around the country.

Schmitz knows he is blessed for the lifestyle he led growing up in beautiful, affluent Laguna Beach where he had a very tight-knit group of friends and no financial worries. But during his first year away at college, those fond memories caused him intense homesickness and, consequently, depression, for the community and people he so loved and missed, and for the reality of finally witnessing the world outside his safe haven.

And for as much of a blessing that being a character on MTV's Laguna Beach show was, watching his beloved high school days on television further propelled his sadness. He soon came to learn that he was evidently not alone in his saddened state: during that same year of college, a female student in his dorm attempted suicide and another male student died from binge drinking -- two tragedies that brought Schmitz the revelation that, had these students had a stronger support network, someone to really talk to, these events might have been avoided.

He is grateful for the support he, himself, received from family and friends during that difficult transition and, in response, has since made it his mission to offer teens a support group during their times of need as well, knowing that, unfortunately, many teens don't have a support system to turn to. Schmitz's goal is "for every teen to know who to call on for help." As he told an interviewer, "The last thing you want to do when you're depressed, suicidal or addicted to a substance is research for hours on where to go for help." Schmitz believes that his project will help save lives.

And in the process of saving lives, Schmitz hopes to dispel many of the stereotypes about his beloved hometown, perpetuated moreso through its namesake reality show. He hopes to prove that despite the gilded lifestyle so many of its youth experience, they are all just regular teens, with real emotions and a desire to contribute to the world. Schmitz is leading the way in this worthwhile crusade through his selfless journey of sacrifice and generosity.

And what a journey it has been. For his previous trek, donations poured in from around the country and popular bands Blink 182 and New Found Glory donated guitars to auction for the cause. The final donation tally: over $11,000.

Dieter's personal physical sacrifice was remarkable, as well. After biking over 60 miles, he struggled upon reaching Orange County. Leaving his bike in San Clemente, although he felt he had no strength left in his legs, he ran the rest of the way to Laguna Beach High School. He fell four times from leg cramping during those last three excrutiating miles, but he never considered quitting an option. In fact, during his last fall he was convinced that he would have to crawl the rest of the way - that is until he saw signs that his friends had left for him along the road to cheer him on. Once again, his support system had come through for him.

Page created on 5/29/2008 4:14:56 PM

Last edited 5/29/2008 4:14:56 PM

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Extra Info

For more information on suicide prevention
call (800) SUICIDE (784-2433).

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