Alpena, MI - June 2022
In early 2022, a young man by the name of Alex Hoppe took his own life, to the shock of his friends, family, and community. Soon after, a young group of women took the initiative to be sure Alex's name would not soon be forgotten, and that mental health and suicide awareness would become a staple in the Alpena area.
The Sunset Project recently had the opportunity to sit down with Addi Marceau, Gabbie Smith, and Ashlyn Schaedig to talk about their powerful endeavor and the overwhelming donation made to the organization.
So, tell us a little bit about the thought process behind the bracelets - Why bracelets? Where did the idea come from? How did you know it would be successful?
Addi Marceau: Eight years ago, my cousin and I designed bracelets to help encourage my aunt to conquer a challenging battle with breast cancer. By wearing the bracelet, it showed her our support and love while also helping bring a community together to show support through this horrible situation. When Alex passed, I wanted to bring awareness and support to the loved ones he left behind.
Gabbie Smith: Well, when we decided to sell the bracelets, we didn't think this venture would be successful… we were trying to show support and encouragement to Alex's family and friends. We were also hoping that we could bring awareness to the community and encourage them to reach out and get help instead of choosing to take their own life. Everyone was really devastated by the loss of Alex, and we really just wanted to try to find some keepsake that would help his family and friends remember all the memories he left behind.
Who was Alex Hoppe?
Ashlyn Schaedig: Alex’s smile always brightened the room, and he could quickly get everyone in the class to laugh. He was a very caring person and was always willing to take the time to listen to you no matter what. He really loved and cared about his family and friends, and Alex was a proud owner of a well-taken care 1995 Ford F-150 that he literally loved so much, and he loved hunting and the outdoors as well.
What was your personal connection to Alex?
Addi Marceau: My personal connection with Alex is that I went to school with him from elementary all the way to high school. He was in many of my classes, and I would describe him as a person that would rile up the class because of his hilarious jokes, he would always get the class going, make you smile and if you were having the worst day, he would spit out his jokes and he would make it 100x better.
Gabbie Smith: Alex and I went to school with each other all the way from kindergarten to high school and we also played hockey together for a couple of years - we actually used to pick him up for hockey practice. He just always seemed to put a smile on everybody's face on the way to practice, even when you were having a bad day and he just made the overall environment so much better.
Ashlyn Schaedig: Alex’s mom and my mom are friends and were pregnant at the same time with Alex and I. He was my neighbor and a friend, and we had multiple classes together since middle school. He always brightened up each one of them with his jokes and funny comments, and he was always very nice to me and everyone and I always appreciated it. He was truly one of a kind.
Did you ever imagine you’d raise as much money as you did?
Addi Marceau: I would say we bought these bracelets with the intention to provide support to his friends and family. It was surprising and amazing the amount of support from the Alpena community, and we were very grateful to the local businesses that allowed us to put them in their stores and those who offered support.
Ashlyn Schaedig: We were totally overwhelmed and so grateful for the support that we got for this project. I think it was so successful because Alex was so loved and cared about and you can see how many lives he touched just by how many people you see walking around with these bracelets on.
Why did you want to include The Sunset Project in this process?
Ashlyn Schaedig: The Sunset Project was appealing to us because it was a way to bring awareness and create outreach on mental health issues in our community. Also, Ben Poli, who is a classmate of ours, recommended this nonprofit organization due to his brother having helped create it.
How do you feel about the current state and the future state of mental health awareness in Alpena/Northeast Michigan?
Gabbie Smith: We believe there is some support in our community, but we feel we need additional resources - especially for youth. Everywhere in the country, mental health is an issue and it continues to get worse every day. Even though we live in a small community and have limited resources to help with mental health, our community supports and acknowledges the fact that mental health is real and continues to find ways to give people support.
If you or someone you know has a mental illness, is struggling emotionally, or has concerns about their mental health, there are ways to get help. Use these resources to find help for you, a friend, or a family member.