Cheryl Morin of the JD Foundation tells the audience about how Kholton Perry, then 12 of Charleston, worked to raise $3,900 for the organization during the 2017 Walk/Run to Wake the Silence. Morin and her husband Victor, center, thanked Perry by giving him an engraved baseball bat from Dove Tail Bats in Shirley. Credit: Stuart Hedstrom/Piscataquis Observer

A non-profit organization that has worked across Maine to bring down youth suicide and bullying rates through awareness and education is closing down after 15 years.

JD Foundation founder Cheryl Morin has been working on suicide prevention for 17 years and the Abbot Village-based foundation will have had non-profit status for 15 years as of Oct. 8, the date of formal closure. 

Any leftover foundation monies — which would not be a lot — along with any other money that comes in, will be donated to another non-profit organization, Morin said. There is no decision yet on what group will get the money, she said.

Morin cited several reasons for the organization’s closure, including lack of recovery from the pandemic, not as many people participating in the fund-raising walks, not enough volunteers to help with big yard sales, she said. She said that her age and health have prevented her from visiting schools to do presentations and programs, and her husband Victor can no longer do the heavy lifting he has done before. JD Foundation volunteers are aging out too, and new people have not been coming in.

“It’s a bittersweet time but we have been trying to make this decision for a year and here we are,” she said on Aug. 30.

The JD Foundation began after the loss of Morin’s son, William Joe Day, who died by suicide on Nov. 18, 2005. His initials represent the JD in JD Foundation. Morin soon turned her grief into action.

For Morin there is a lot to be proud of over the last decade and a half-plus, such as “getting the word out by talking and teaching” about mental illness and suicide so people can know that it’s okay to discuss these subjects.

She said that people didn’t talk about suicide when the organization first started and that it has taken multiple organization to bring the health issue out where it can be discussed. 

The organization has taught more than 1,000 students across Maine, helping them learn the warning signs and where to get help, she said. Other programs have included more than 200 Connecting with Nature walks, hikes and kayaking trips with those taking part ranging in age from 2-92.

“To go from not knowing what it really was to making an impact in the state and helping others is just phenomenal,” Morin said.

Morin said some of the participants have married, divorced and started their own hiking, walking groups while making many friendships and this helped some of the participants with depression, anxiety and loneliness. 

The organization has conducted more than 50 trainings, seen more than 100 clients for one-on-one help, visited families all over the state who have lost loved ones, offered several women’s retreats and made referrals when applicable.

The JD Foundation founder plans to continue her one-on-one traumatic incident reduction and life stress reduction sessions — and talk about suicide out loud.

“I also don’t want people to forget this started with my son and my son’s suicide,” Morin said. “Part of this is really bittersweet because it’s like the loss of a connection to him.”