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Rallying cry: Remember the bandana

Paul Gerbec of River Falls said what he likes and remembers best about this picture of his son Dan is the way it shows his big smile. Dan committed suicide a year ago. This Saturday morning at Glen Park, the first annual Danbana Dash will be held in his honor to raise money for the organization Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE).

How do you emerge from the unbearable darkness of a tragic death back to the light of the living?

For friends and family of Dan Gerbec, part of the answer is months of preparation culminating in the first annual Danbana Dash this Saturday, Oct. 5, at Glen Park.

Gerbec, a 2008 River Falls High School graduate, committed suicide just over a year ago during the first month of his senior year at UW-Eau Claire. He was majoring in English, minoring in communications and wanted to be a writer.

Dan’s father, Paul, says the shock and despair over his son’s death has been slow to fade.

“We didn’t get the sense that he was troubled at all,” Paul said. “Dan’s demons were very deep inside him.”

“For those left behind, your life changes forever, it’s never the same. Even as you recover, you always have a hole that’s left. You just try to figure out a way to put one foot in front of the other and keep going on.”

Going on, a step at a time, has meant doing something to help a national organization called Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.

SAVE fundraisers carry the generic name Emotions in Motions. Different sites across the country, like Saturday’s in River Falls called Danbana Dash, add a localized name. All raise money to the educational and support work provided by SAVE.

“Doing this generates something positive out of the tragedy of Dan’s death,” Paul said. “Working on it, focusing my energies, has been part of the healing.”

For years Dan regularly wore bandanas, so Saturday’s event blends his first name with his favorite headgear.

Plans are to hold Danbana Dash each year. The goal in year one is to raise $10,000.

The main event of Danbana Dash is a 5K run/walk at 10 a.m. Other fun activities will be going on for families and children. Raffles will also be held.

A bean-bag tournament will be held in the afternoon at Lazy River Bar in downtown River Falls.

For more information about Danbana Dash, call Paul Gerbec at 651-261-8853, Kelly Brenna at 612-839-0275, or Linda Mars with SAVE at 952-946-7998.

For the complete story, please see the Oct. 3 print edition of the River Falls Journal.