- Associated Press - Friday, September 18, 2015

FREEPORT, Ill. (AP) - Elaine Larsen of Lena remembers her stepson Cody with love. Since 2011, she and her husband, Andrew, have had to come to grips with Cody taking his own life.

They have participated in the Out of the Darkness Walk each fall, and for three straight years they have hosted a tattoo-a-thon fundraiser called Tats 4 Life at Zealous Art Studio. The event raises money for suicide awareness and prevention, and it’s a way to tell other families they are not alone when a suicide occurs.

Dozens of people showed up at the studio to get tattoos. All the money raised will go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and will be donated at this year’s Out of the Darkness Walk on Oct. 10 at Krape Park in Freeport.

Last year, the event raised $3,000, with 76 people getting tattoos. The Larsens expected donations to exceed last year’s total. Josh Elliott, owner of Zealous Art Studio, said he and his team of tattoo artists would work into an August evening to make sure that everyone who wanted a tattoo walked out of the studio with new ink.

“Each year, this is a humbling event and it just keeps getting bigger,” Elaine Larsen said. “We want people to reach out if they are feeling the need to take their own life, and to those families affected by suicide, we want them to know they aren’t alone.”

Angie Arashikavitz of Galena lost her brother to suicide.

“We come out to this event to make some noise,” she said. “People don’t like to talk about suicide, and the more you talk about it, the more we can get help to the people who need it.”

Andrew Larsen said that when he and Elaine first got involved with the event, he had no idea how many people had experienced what he and his family went through after his son’s suicide.

“This helps get the word out, and we had people contact us from Rockford to see how they could help,” Andrew said. “This is all about help, support and awareness.”

Elliott said he’s happy to be part of a fundraiser that helps families like the Larsens. He had a team of six tattoo artists on hand to help out.

“I am thrilled to be part of an event like this,” Elliott said. “Prevention is real and we want people to know life can be tough, but there is help out there.”

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Source The (Freeport) Journal-Standard, http://bit.ly/1fZSi4B

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Information from: The Journal-Standard, http://www.journalstandard.com/jshome.taf

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