LiFE of HOPE | History

In January of 2001, four days after attempting to end her life, a twenty-seven year old mother of two wrote the following. “When you start the New Year the way I have, there seems to be nowhere to go but up. Never would I have imagined finding myself at this juncture. I’m without answer to one question; at what point did I begin to lose touch with myself in such a way that I could consider death a suitable solution?” These are the words taken from the personal journal of Deeatra Kajfosz, founding Executive Director of LiFE OF HOPE. They were written from within the walls of St. Joseph’s Hospital Mental Health Ward. As a statistic, she was one of 46 Washington County suicide attempts who were hospitalized that year (Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Self-Inflicted Injury-Related Hospitalization, 2014). In 2012, eleven years after her attempt, ninety members of her local community were admitted as a result of a failed attempt to end their life. The sad truth is, statistics indicate that the numbers are not going down.

Suicide. The topic itself raises many emotions, opinions, and difficult questions. It has been said that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. For those affected by a suicide attempt or death, the financial and emotional hardships are substantial and can be felt deeply across generational, racial, and social demographics.

After having lost a professional colleague / personal friend to suicide in June, 2014, Kajfosz set out to break the silence on her own attempt and develop a comprehensive, suicide awareness and prevention proposal in an effort to reduce the number of suicide attempts and deaths within Washington County. That proposal serves as the foundation to the LiFE OF HOPE mission.

LiFE OF HOPE MILESTONES

January 24, 2001
Deeatra K (LOH founder/Executive Director) suicide attempt

13.5 years 
She holds survived attempt as a closely guarded secret

June 16, 2014 
Kirk (Deeatra’s friend) passes away by suicide

July, 2014 
Community proposal for change is written
Adam Fordham, in an effort to earn his Eagle Scout, asks the West Bend Drama Troupe to help him create a community awareness forum for suicide prevention with Deeatra offering to help assist in the planning and implementation

August 21, 2014 
Deeatra shares her personal suicide attempt and journey toward healing story for the first time publicly during the “Roads We Take” – Suicide Awareness & Prevention event (150+ in attendance)

October, 2014
First organized meeting around Deeatra’s dining room

January 21, 2015
First community AWARENESS event to launch LiFE OF HOPE (introduction of original 4 LiFE-Saving Programs + 4 Awareness-Building Fundraisers)

January 31, 2015
Recognized as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization

February 10, 2015
First Board of Directors meeting is held

March, 2015
First Program & Partner Development meeting is hosted to begin defining program structure and partner relations
First Youth Impact Committee meeting is hosted to engage youth perspectives in an effort to build AWARENESS for the topic of suicide throughout Washington County

June, 2015
First AWARENESS-building fundraiser GiVE HOPE Mini Golf Outing is hosted

August, 2015
RiDE FOR HOPE AWARENESS-building fundraiser is held to attract 40+ year old men (highest rate of completed suicides by age demographic)
Two members of LOH team are the first to become QPR Certified

September, 2015
LiFE OF HOPE moves into a physical office (139 N. Main Street, Suite 104, WB)
Three members of LOH team become certified as QPR Instructors
Organization of expanded programs is restructured under “Three Pillars of Influence” (AWARENESS – primary) (EDUCATION – secondary) (SUPPORT – tertiary)

October, 2015
Two LiFE OF HOPE team members complete QPR Certification for Instructors

November, 2015
Celebrate LiFE Dinner & Auction adds to growing list of successful AWARENESS-building fundraisers

January, 2016
First QPR trainings held at West Bend Public Library and Wellspring Church in Hartford

February, 2016
Behind the Mask Brunch & Fashion Show held at West Bend Mutual Prairie Center. Raised $18,141

April, 2016
Welcomed International speaker and author, Kevin Hines, for a free community EDUCATION speaker event
Ribbon cutting ceremony in recognition as West Bend Area Chamber of Commerce members filmed and aired by West Bend Community Television
Hosted QPR Training of Trainers with 15 attendees adding 4 new instructors to the LOH volunteer team
LOH Founder received NAMI “Iris Award” in recognition of enthusiastic and vigorous efforts to spark action, promote programs, and fight stigma

May, 2016
Founder and Executive Director, Deeatra Kajfosz, is recognized by the Volunteer Center of Washington County with the Real Hero Award for making a “real difference” through positive change within the community
Sent two LOH representatives through Certified Peer Specialist Training

June, 2016
Three LOH representatives attended Zero Suicide Conference in Madison, WI
2nd Annual GiVE HOPE Mini-Golf Outing grows in size and financial contributions

July, 2016
Achieved 300+ people certified in QPR since the launch of EDUCATION Pillar
Hosted Free EDUCATION Workshop: Compassionately Supporting Someone in Emotional Distress with eight attendees

August, 2016
Launch of H.O.P.E. (Hold On. Pain Ends.) Peer Support Groups: Friends & Family and those personally experiencing active suicide ideation

October, 2016
H.O.P.E. peer support groups attract 20+attendees since program launch

November, 2016  
2nd Annual Celebrate LiFE Dinner & Auction AWARENESS-building fundraiser welcomed over 200 guests with guest keynote speaker, Molly Fay from The Morning Blend. Raised $25,000

January, 2017
Board of Directors approved expansion of office space and addition of two new part-time staff members to meet the growing needs of the community

March, 2017
LiFE OF HOPE hosted first community Do Good Bus event with 30 volunteers and a morning filled with HOPE IN ACTION
QPR Certification program exceeds 700 participants
2nd Annual Behind the Mask Brunch & Fashion Show welcomes 240 guests, netting the largest profit of any fundraiser to date, for the continuation of AWARENESS, EDUCATION, and SUPPORT programs

April, 2017  
Two new programs begin to take shape for launch in summer/fall (NEXT STEP Resources and AHA Community Connections)
Karlee’s Prom, created and hosted by a LiFE OF HOPE guest family, welcomes 200+ guests, gains attention from WTMJ Channel 4, and reduces stigma for mental illness and suicide

May, 2017
Dr. Thomas Joiner is welcomed as the Keynote Speaker of the LiFE OF HOPE – 2nd Annual – Community Suicide Education Forum where attendees learned why and how suicide ideation and action occur, and what can be done to reduce the risk of action so that healing can occur

June, 2017
Inhouse NEXT STEP Partner Resource rack is established, offering print collateral, articles, and tools to those seeking greater understanding and support through and beyond suicide ideation (themselves or for a loved one)

August, 2017
1 year anniversary of HOPE Peers Support Groups, having served more than 40 individuals through two different group settings (active ideation and friends/family of suicidal individuals)
3rd Annual RiDE for HOPE is held

September, 2017 
Record attendance and profits are recorded for the 3rd Annual 5K Butterfly Run/Walk (200+ attend and $7,000 raised in profit)
Hometown Hero Award is presented to LiFE OF HOPE Founder and Executive Director, Deeatra Kajfosz, by Modern Woodman for her work in addressing the topic of suicide through a comprehensive attempt aversion and loss prevention nonprofit organization she founded in 2015

October, 2017
Three members of the LiFE OF HOPE team complete “Motivational Interviewing” training

November, 2017
West Bend Chamber of Commerce recognizes LiFE OF HOPE as the “Community Agency of the Year”, beating out long standing nonprofits such as United Way of Washington County, Volunteer Center of Washington County, Girl Scouts of SE Wisconsin, and others

December, 2017
Mr. Holland’s Heating & Air (and) Bryant Heating & Cooling Systems award LiFE OF HOPE Founder & Executive Director, Deeatra Kajfosz, with the “Community Heroes” award for her work in the improvement and positive impact made in the community

January, 2018
Celebrate LiFE Dinner & Auction planning committee set an all-time record for highest attendance (240 guests) and most money raised ($32,000+ net) during a single LiFE OF HOPE fundraiser event in support of the mission
LiFE OF HOPE celebrates three years in operation
In coalition with NAMI Washington County, LiFE OF HOPE launches it’s first AHA Community Connections activity for individuals who self-identify as feeling alone

February, 2018
LiFE OF HOPE adds a Stabilization Support Specialist to the team, dedicated to working directly with individuals most affected by suicide ideation, survived attempt, and loss
Members of the community take part in the first, official LiFE OF HOPE Open House, enjoying food, beverage, guided tours, signing the “In Honor/Memory Wall”, and networking among Board members, staff, partners, sponsors, and guests