LivOn22 Virtual Athletic Event for Mental Health Awareness: Celebrating the Life of Olivia Wigon

Calling all athletes, runners, joggers, walkers, bikers, kayakers, surfers, and more! Join The Hidden Opponent and #LivOn22 as we honor the life of Olivia Wigon THIS SATURDAY, JULY 18, 2020 with a virtual athletic event. LivOn22 was created to celebrate the life of Olivia “Livi” Wigon through action and activism. Olivia died by suicide a year ago and this event will be held on what would have been her 22nd birthday. Help us remember Olivia by setting an athletic goal and/or fundraising in her memory. All proceeds will go to two organizations that best represent Olivia’s legacy: The Island School & The JED Foundation. The Island School supports environmental education and research –Olivia’s main passion during her time with us. The JED foundation dedicates funds and resources to suicide prevention and improving the mental health of young adults. For more information, visit https://www.livon22.com and read our interview with the LivOn22 team below.

Olivia Wigon at The Island School in The Bahamas.

Who was Olivia Wigon? What was she like? What were her favorite things? 

Olivia Wigon was first and foremost an incredible friend. Her friends were from all over the world, of all different backgrounds and ages. She could connect with anyone who was open minded, kind and fun. Livi loved sharing and debating the issues she was passionate towards, and also learning from others about what inspired them. She was loyal and would stand up for anyone who needed encouragement or back up. 

Olivia was headed on a course to be an environmental policy warrior. She was extremely smart and driven and a force for good in this world. Olivia was passionate about social justice and environmental policy, with a focus on our oceans, particularly shark research. At the age of 15, she began studying sharks and went on to research this magnificent animal at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Her advisors were certain she would be a leader and have a very successful career because of how quickly she could pick up information and techniques, and also because of how she thoughtfully challenged them, even though they were her superiors.  

Olivia is remembered for her adventurous spirit, beautiful smile, and making others feel empowered to be themselves. 

What is the LivOn22 event? Why did you choose an athletic event to honor her memory? 

LivOn22 is a virtual athletic event to honor the life of Olivia, with the hope to spark important conversations about mental health and environmental challenges. LivOn22 will be held on what would have been Olivia’s 22nd birthday, July 18, 2020. We decided to honor Olivia by fundraising for two charities that represent Olivia’s legacy: The Island School and The JED Foundation. 

We are remembering Olivia through an athletic event, not only because Olivia was an athlete herself, having been on her high school swim and Nordic skiing teams, but because we also know that it is important for people to have a positive outlet during these challenging times. We wanted to create an attainable and fun event and encourage participants to move their bodies and take care of both their mental and physical health.

We also hope this event will spark positive conversations about mental health and our planet’s environmental challenges. We hope participants find ways to become advocates and changemakers for their communities emotional wellbeing and our planet. 

What are the organizations you are raising money for and why did you choose them? 

We choose to fundraise for The Island School and The JED Foundation, as both of these organizations honor Olivia’s legacy. The Island School is a transformative educational semester and summer program for high school students in Eleuthera, The Bahamas. The Island School experience culminates at the beginning of a lifelong educational journey, with more self-confident students leaving as engaged global citizens, empowered to be active leaders of their generation. Olivia attended The Island School in the Spring of 2014 and returned to Eleuthera during her gap year as a Turtle Research Intern in the Fall of 2016. Both opportunities strongly influenced Olivia, allowing Olivia’s passion for marine biology and ocean conservation to blossom further. By donating to The Island School, we honor Olivia’s passion to be an environmental and educational change-maker– and of course, her love of sharks! The Island School also trains students to complete either a half-marathon, which Olivia completed during her semester, or a “Super Swim” of 4 miles in the open ocean. Physical and mental health are central the to Island School experience, as students learn to care for their bodies, minds, and the environment.

The second organzation is The JED Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to suicide prevention and to improving the mental health of young adults. JED wants to end the stigma surrounding mental illness, and they envision a future where every high school and college has a proper system in place to supports its students’ mental and emotional health, reducing the risk of substance misuse and suicide. They have helped over 3,000 high schools and 270 colleges implement these safety nets, educating over 3,000,000 students. By equipping and empowering young adults with the proper resources, The JED Foundation is saving lives. By donating to The JED foundation we honor Olivia by acknowledging that suicide was the terrible, but preventable result of her struggle with depression. We aim to give hope to the many individuals who struggle with mental health challenges every day. 

Olivia and her classmates after completing their half-marathon.

How many participants have pledged to participate thus far? Where are these participants from? 

We have received over 400 donations, from our GoFundMe page as well as our sustainable t-shirt fundraiser, and over 380 people have pledged to participate! While the majority of our participants are from the New England area, people all around the world are pledging –from Australia and New Zealand, to the Bahamas and Aruba, to the UK and Hawai’i!

What kinds of activities have people pledged to do on July 18? 

Although LivOn22 is a suggested 5K, we want participants to choose any form of movement that brings them joy! Most of our participants are running, biking, swimming or walking, but we have had some participants say that they will be kayaking, paddleboarding, and even rowing! Some of our more ambitious participants have pledged challenging feats like biking 100 km or running 22 miles! 

How can people participate in your mission? 

You can get involved by pledging your participation on the GoFundMe page and getting active on July 18, 2020 or even just sharing our mission with your personal community. As a team, we have already surpassed our goal of $22,000 and we will be splitting the proceeds 50-50 to The Island School and The JED Foundation.

Visit our website www.livon22.come and follow us @teamlivon22 to connect with the LivOn22 team!

Did you know that Olivia was struggling with her mental health? Do you have advice for those who may know someone struggling similarly? 

Yes, Olivia’s mental health challenges were no secret to her close family and friends but she would have good and bad stretches, so when you got the good, it was easy to forget about the bad and embrace them. Although it was clear she was struggling, sadly, we will probably never fully understand what she was going through.

Olivia had a long battle with depression, which looking back I think started at a very young age. On top of this, she suffered multiple concussions in middle and high school, which we expect may have been a contributing factor. Being such an independent and strong person, Olivia did not love resting or taking help, even when we tried to convince her to stick with a therapist or try medication. On reflection, her relentless adventures, activities and studies may have been her effort to stay ahead of it. 

I think my advice to someone who seeing their friend struggle would be to research, research, research. Do not rely on what you hear from passing posts on Instagram, blogs, or casual conversation. Instead of just generically saying, “maybe you should see a therapist”, come up with a plan and specific resources for your friend to go to. Reach out to your support system with your worries so that they can help you as well. It can be a heavy burden to advise a friend suffering from this type of complex mental health issue. 

Thank you to Dorothy Wigon, Sam Wigon, Catherine Argyrople, Robin Grathwohl, and the rest of the LivOn22 team for creating such an important event and for sharing their story with us. We hope that our Hidden Opponent community will join us in a workout on July 18th for a good cause!

Olivia with a nurse shark studying for the Shark Research Team at The University of Miami.