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    After losing their loved one to suicide, Pete Jones' family decided to do something.

    Photos by Thomas Elmallakh

    Last December, 23-year-old Pete Jones took his own life. He had completed a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Alabama on a full scholarship, and was working on a master's at UofL. He loved sports, especially basketball and football. His sister still thinks of him whenever she listens to The Killers.

    Pete had been living with depression since he was a teenager, but it wasn’t until his twenties that he shared his struggles with his family and pursued treatment. After losing Pete, his family wondered how they could contribute to the movement to destigmatize mental illness, and especially how to engage adolescents. (Researchers for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention found a significant increase in suicides among teenagers from 1975 to 2015.) They formed the Pete Foundation for Depression Prevention, with hopes of starting outreach programs. For their first major project, they decided to throw a music festival on some property the Jones family had acquired a few years earlier — Pete’s mother, Molly Jones, says that she hadn’t known what to do with the land, that the family had done some gardening there, but little else. It seemed like it was meant to be.

    Posters for the festival featuring a green elephant with lighter green stripes — the coloration an homage to Pete’s favorite hoodie — advertised a lineup of 30 local and regional bands, including local favorites Dr. Dundiff, Cheyenne Mize and Frederick the Younger. Curio Key Club put together a super band to perform Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” with two of the guys from Houndmouth, Mize, vocalist Carly Johnson, percussionist Meg Samples, Chris Rodahaffer and Vandaveer’s Mark Charles Heidinger.

    Jones says the foundation’s mission has resonated with a broad swath of people. “Every time I turn around,” she says, "someone has a personal story to share about mental illness or suicide." You can see our photos from the first Petefest below. To learn more about the Pete Foundation, visit their website




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