Spirit of Gillette Award Winner Trish Simonson
This summer, when Trish Simonson received the phone call informing her she had been nominated for the Campbell County Chamber of Commerce Spirit of Gillette Award, she thought it was some sort of scam or prank call. Or maybe they had called the wrong number. That is, until they asked if she would accept the nomination.
“Why on earth would I get nominated for this?” Simonson asked herself. “Because it’s such a prestigious award, as far as I’m concerned, in a town like Gillette. A lot of pretty prominent business people have received it.”
When the phone call first came in, Simonson said she was having a rough day, which she’s had too many of since her son took his own life at age 15, three and a half years ago. Just then, she was sitting on the back porch at her home wondering if the work she and her husband, Mike, were doing with suicide prevention was making a difference.
“It kind of restarted a fire in me. I was very humbled,” she said of receiving the nomination.
Since Kayden’s death, the Simonson’s have shared their heartbreak to help with suicide prevention by speaking at events and hosting the Kayden Simonson Scholarship Fund/Project Semicolon 5K run.
“When Mike and I talk about suicide, we’re very raw. There’s no sugarcoating with suicide. Because I don’t think you can be. You have to be very honest, and being honest about it is what’s going to make the change for people that are thinking about it and for people who have been through the loss of a suicide,” explained Simonson.
It’s that heartfelt care and concern for the community that landed her the award nomination and a seat at last weekend’s Grease-themed awards banquet.
“It’s so, almost surreal, to walk into a room with over 300 people, and every single one of them are doing something great,” Simonson said of the annual event.
Simonson said that she and her husband had so much fun at the Chamber’s award banquet, she’s already contacted Events and Programming Director Tracy Mathews to let her know she and her husband will now be attending every year.
As for the award, she never expected to actually win, but was honored just by the nomination.
“I look at the people in the past who won it and I think, ‘My gosh. How can I even rank at that level?’ so to speak,” said Simonson.
Having been caught off guard speaking in public before, she took a few moments last Saturday afternoon to put some of her thoughts down on paper, and it’s a good thing she did.
“It’s a gut wrenching subject, it’s exhausting,” Simonson said of the subject of suicide. “So, I’m going to keep that award out, because it’s going to remind me every day that somebody out there thought that I was worthy of this award and I was making a difference.”
She said she may even carry it around from room to room.
As the 2018 Spirit of Gillette Award winner, Trish Simonson will get the honor of presenting the award to next year’s winner.
This achievement is not a milestone she’ll linger over for too long. Simonson said her dream is to bring a full-fledged Project Semicolon Chapter to Gillette.
The next step in the direction of that goal is to apply to become and official non-profit organization, which means tackling a mountain of red tape. It’s a challenge that Simonson will face head-on and surely will achieve.