Spotlight : "Stay strong for Stella"
Last month, Kate Wakefield of Lung released a sriking EP titled, Songs for Stella. The EP, available digitally on Bandcamp, features contributions from Kate as well as Lydia Brownfield, Cathy Wicks and Vanessa and Marie Prentice.
Kate had this to say about it; “This album is made in loving memory and honor of Stella Abel, a creative and beautiful soul who left us all too soon in 2018. All of the proceeds of these tracks will go directly into making tie dye bracelets with messages of hope (stay strong for Stella) as well as a number for a free Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255. Bracelets will be passed out by Stella's mom, Vanessa Prentice who regularly attends many events and festivals in Ohio such as Columbus Pride and Comfest. To anyone out there who is struggling, we are sending all of the love your way.”
Here is a note from Vanessa, Stella's Mom. “My 15 year old daughter Stella didn’t seem like someone who was in so much pain that she would want to end her own life. The night she died, she cooked us dinner and we ate at the table together. We talked about future plans and laughed and smiled together. She said ‘goodnight’ to us and that she loved us as if nothing was wrong.”
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SofaBurn contacted Stella’s mother, Vanessa to learn more about her daughter and the drive behind this ongoing initiative.
Tell us about your daughter, Stella. What would you most want readers to know about her?
Stella was 15 years old and so talented and special. I know every mom feels that way, but everywhere she went and everything she did was exceptional. She wanted to be an astronaut and she graduated from Space Camp. She was going to STEM school because she was interested in engineering and she placed very high her first year doing the soapbox derby. She loved the theater and her last role as the "Nightingale of Samarkand" in Once Upon a Mattress blew people away. She was a gifted musician and singer. She played percussion in the high school marching band with great enthusiasm and was so fun to watch. She was already being paid to play gigs with me at 13 and by 15 she was playing her original music at events and coffee shops. She lived her short life to the fullest and not one person can understand why she would have wanted to leave. She was so, so very loved.
Have people been open/receptive to your campaign to raise awareness to suicide prevention?
I have gotten amazing support from our community and beyond and it just keeps growing. The thing is, we didn't know she was struggling with suicidal thoughts. The day she died I found out that she had been reaching out for help in the last couple of months on an anonymous social media app. She told people who didn't know her that she wanted to kill herself, but she was scared to die. No one even responded. All I could think, those first few days was - if only she had called the Suicide Hotline or texted the emergency text line instead. They have people who are trained to help and maybe they could have gotten her through or encouraged her to talk to her counselor or someone who could have saved her. So, I had the idea of getting those numbers out to the people who need them in a way that may be handy in case they are ever needed. The bracelets have "Stay Strong for Stella" on one side and the National Suicide Hotline on the other, with the text line embossed on the inside. I figure even if people don't wear them all the time - they might take them off and put them on their dresser or somewhere in their room and if they have the thought of hurting themselves, but feel scared maybe... just maybe they might decide to try those numbers instead. So far I have passed out about 1,500 of them and I plan to more than double that number this summer.
Did you have any prior activism experience?
Stella and I both loved to volunteer at events. We did Comfest in Columbus every year and donated live music to local causes on a regular basis. We attended Columbus Pride the last few years and I told her how I used to march with my open and affirming church before she was born - my last year was when I was pregnant with her. Stella was very open about her bisexuality from a young age and I wanted to make sure she knew that there was nothing wrong with her. I know she faced some criticism from her peers for it, but she also had a group of friends and a family who loved and accepted her just as she was.
A new EP has just been released called, Songs for Stella. Do you have plans to release additional music?
There are more plans in the works... I recorded one original song for the EP that Stella and I used to perform together. My step daughter Marie Prentice sang it with me - she and I both covered different parts of the song that Stella used to sing. I have more songs that we can record and I also have some original songs by Stella that I might be able to figure out and record. Of course the centerpiece of the Songs for Stella release is Kate Wakefield's song that she wrote for Stella. I cried the first few times I listened to it and I still get emotional each time I hear the beautiful cello and the amazingly touching lyrics that Kate wrote for my daughter.
What are some of the hurdles to overcome in getting the word out?
The things I've been doing are limited in their reach - I keep ordering more and more of the bracelets and I also mail them to people who want to pass them out to classrooms or at events out of state. I feel like this music release (Songs for Stella) can easily go much further and reach people I might never have connected with personally.
How can people get involved / where can they learn more about your campaign?
You can listen to and download the EP on our Bandcamp page, Songs for Stella and you can donate to help cover the cost of the bracelets - each bracelet is about 25¢, so even a dollar could help four people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts. You can like our Songs for Stella facebook page which I created to let people know where I will be handing out the bracelets and where we can post stories and new releases to our Bandcamp. The best thing you can possibly do to help is to take a moment right now and program these numbers into your phone and into your friends’ and children's phones. You may not know when they will need to use them for themselves or for someone they know. The National Suicide Hotline is free 24/7: 1-800-273-8255 or you can text HOME to: 741741
Is there something you've learned through all of this or a poignant takeaway you could share with people?
I would never have guessed just how many caring, loving people would come forward to help my family to get through the death of our sweet Stella. If I can help just one person not to make the choice she did and save anyone else from having to experience this devastating loss, it will be worth handing out bracelets every day for the rest of my life.
If you have questions, would like to request bracelets or would like to make a separate donation, please email us (Vanessa Prentice & Kate Wakefield) at firstname.lastname@example.org “