Ben’s Memorial Mile helps raise mental health awareness while remembering Ben Silver

Bens-Memorial-Mile-ANNE-SCAn

By Maureen Callahan I Photos courtesy of Ben’s Memorial Mile

Proceeds from the event support research and education in honor of Ben Silver’s story.

May marks the 75th anniversary of Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s a time to consider the importance of mental health in our daily lives. Tragically, each year, thousands of people commit suicide while battling mental illness.
Every summer, Downers Grove pauses to remember Downers Grove North alum Ben Silver through Ben’s Memorial Mile, an annual running gala and community festival. Silver passed away from suicide in 2015.

Silver was a champion member of DGN’s Cross Country and Track and Field teams. He set and broke many records, sometimes in the face of physical limitations due to injury. He also made several appearances at state finals, sometimes on astonishingly little training. Silver truly was a natural runner with a level of strength and speed most don’t possess.


A race, a walk, a party, a way to raise
awareness of schizophrenia and help
others beset by similar difficulties.

– Ben’s Memorial MilE


After he graduated from DGN with honors, Silver attended Miami University of Ohio on a running scholarship. However, past injuries began to beguile his athletic performance. He was forced to end his collegiate running career after his first season. The loss of his scholarship, while on an ambiguous academic path, weighed on him. He drifted away from friends.

As time went on, Silver started to experience paranoid thoughts and delusions. Eventually, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, a frequently misunderstood and misdiagnosed mental illness. It often surfaces when the patient reaches late adolescence or young adulthood.

Over the next few years, Silver struggled as he searched for answers in mental health facilities and fluctuating prescription drugs. Unable to escape the voices in his head, Silver ended his life in the summer of 2015.

“The DGN running community is pretty strong, so after Ben passed away, his family collaborated with that community to create an event in his memory,” said Michael Lifson, a teammate and longtime friend of the Silver family who serves as Race Director of Ben’s Memorial Mile. “We sought guidance from our coaches, along with the organizers of the former Bonfield Express, to plan a running event.”

The result is an annual fun-filled day to share memories and good times for attendees of all ages. “The goal is to keep it light and have fun while still raising awareness,” said Lifson. “Ben had a very whimsical side to him, so we have some silly events to honor that memory.”

While the topic of mental health is a serious one, the event is by no means a somber affair. There are many fun activities, such as a kids’ booth, dancing, and a cornhole tournament. A local gym lends its expertise for fitness tips, and a karate dojo teaches kids how to break boards. From kid races to adult races for runners of any ability, Ben’s Memorial Mile truly offers something for everyone.

There is also plenty of time and opportunity to share stories and memories of Silver. The event is emceed by Silver’s former DGN Track and Field Coach, Will Kupisch, along with Shor Costello, Silver’s third-grade teacher from Highland School.

Ben’s Memorial Mile is a 501(c)(3) organization. All event proceeds are split between the DuPage branch of NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, an organization that researches mental health conditions such as schizophrenia.

Author’s Note: Please be aware that this year’s venue was not yet determined at the time of publication. Both District 99 high school tracks are scheduled for construction this summer, so please check the website for location information. For more information, or to register for the event, please visit BensMemorialMile.com.

Beginners and competitive runners alike enjoy this event.

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