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This is a transcript of a conversation with Lost&Found’s founders: DJ Smith, Deni Etriheim, Anna Hyronimus, and Elliott Breukelman. It has been auto-generated, so there might be some transcription errors.
Nathan Hofer 00:46
Well, good morning again everyone and welcome back to our second stream of the day second stream. Second coffee. No questions need to be asked. So my name is Nathan Hofer and I am the Director of Campus Operations here for Lost&Found and this nine o’clock session I’m super excited for, we’re going to spend some time talking to some of the some of the folks who were really instrumental in the formation and founding of Lost&Found so I’m gonna bring them into the stream here. First off, we have DJ Smith, who was the founding president of the board of directors for Lost&Found from 2010 to 2014. Then we have Deni, Deni I can’t I’m not sure I’m ashamed. I should ask you your last name how to pronounce it right? Because I don’t know you as Miring. And I’m embarrassed. But Deni is the one who founded the SDSU chapter back in 2012 2014. Then we have Elliot, Elliot is the founder of the DSU chapter and current chief tech officer for Lost&Found, and he also gets a lot of messages from me saying, Elliott, I broke it, fix it. Then, lastly, we have Anna Hyronimus, who is a current board member. And she’s been on the board since 2015. So welcome, everyone. It’s so good to have you all here.
Elliott Breukelman 01:56
Anna Hyronimus 01:58
It’s great to be here.
Nathan Hofer 02:00
So, you know, I gave a quick little, little intro to you fine folks about who, who you are and what your or your experiences here. So why don’t you just take a second and tell us you know, what some of your journey has been with Lost&Found what what made you get involved? And then we’ll go into some questions. And before we do that, anyone watching now, if you have any questions or comments, post them in the Facebook comments, we’ll bring them up into the stream. And we’ll ask these wonderful people these questions. So DJ, what sorry, why don’t you tell us about your journey with Lost&Found briefly.
DJ Smith 02:33
Goodness. So my journey with Lost&Found started a little bit — about two years before it became an official nonprofit. It was 2008. And every year, there’s an organization called To Write Love on Her Arms, and they work with suicide prevention down in Florida. And every year they have a write love on your arm to show you support people who are struggling with mental health and suicide ideology. And they made an event on Facebook talking about doing this. And of course, I had said I was attending and there were naysayers in the chat going, Oh, this does nothing. If you really want to make a difference, you’ll do more than write love on your arm and myself and a gal named Kayla are arguing with them as we know arguing with strangers on the internet gets you so very far.
Nathan Hofer 03:27
Works really well.
DJ Smith 03:28
Of course, why wouldn’t it.
And so the two of us decided that you know, we there is more that can be done to really make an impact here in the in the Midwest. So we started another Facebook group that was really dedicated to the micro level doing things daily or weekly or monthly that make an impact on someone’s mental health and their self esteem and their well being. And two years later, this small Facebook group had kind of exploded from a couple hundred people that I knew locally and that Kayla knew in Michigan, up to 1100 people just seemingly overnight, so we made it into a I guess I made it into a school project that won a national award. And from there that’s really when I brought together Erik Muckey and a few other people to create Lost&Found
Nathan Hofer 04:34
Awesome. Erik Muckey, I’ve heard that name before.
DJ Smith 04:37
Yeah, wonder where.
Nathan Hofer 04:40
I’m sure we’ll see him in about 20 videos today. It’s fine. Next, Deni, why don’t you share a little bit about your your experience, your journey with Lost&Found?
Deni Etriheim 04:50
Yeah, it’s kind of hard to think of the exact details of how everything panned out but I was talking to Erik, we’ve been friends you know since high school, and even junior high actually think. And so it’s been quite a while and quite a journey for us. But as I entered into my freshman year at South Dakota State, I was just noting, noticing a lot of students struggling with mental health and not feeling like they had adequate resources. And so as I was talking to Erik, we decided to go ahead and establish a chapter at SDSU. And it’s just been a beautiful journey to see kind of how that’s blossomed and how we’ve been able to support that university and be a resource for students, especially as I started to work with Residential Life to see an even bigger need and how we can impact some of those students, and how we can help be an opportunity for students who maybe are struggling with mental health themselves, but they want to help those that are. And so we started our SDSU chapter. And it’s just been incredible to see how it’s grown and all the different activities. And it’s kind of bittersweet to to be able to see some of the events that we started from the ground up are still happening today.
Nathan Hofer 06:02
Eliott, why don’t you, why don’t you share some of your journey?
Elliott Breukelman 06:06
Yeah, so I mean, I started with Lost&Found I had met DJ through Student Senate. You know, just like you know, many campus leaders, we are all wearing multiple hats and trying to do multiple things. But I was also one of the the target audiences for Lost&Found right. In in late high school and early college, I struggled a lot with depression and anxiety. And I hid that a lot from everybody else, you know, we we kind of put on this, this different face, especially when you’re trying to be a campus leader and be a role model for students. A lot of times you just, you know, you put all of your personal struggles to the back. And that’s, you know, really kind of what pushed me to get into Lost&Found even more. You know, DJ is a great guy. And I knew him and Erik through through Student Senate. And like I said, and and I was like, this is a great organization to get involved with, and and maybe it’ll help me along the way. And it certainly did, you know, that’s, I owe a lot to Lost&Found and to where the organization has come.
Nathan Hofer 07:10
Awesome. Thank you, Anna, you’re my, you’re my last introducer, you’re the last one to go here. But you’ll be first for the next one. So be wary.
Anna Hyronimus 07:21
And I’m just looking at this group. And I think I’ve been a part of Lost&Found for the least amount of time, I’m talking amongst a group of complete like, OG, you know, the original group, who took part and really established a lot of the foundational elements of Lost&Found back in college, I picked up kind of Lost&Found in 2015. And so I’ve been out of college, Erik and I had been for a year. And so I think, you know, I loved your point, Elliott about being the target audience, because I wasn’t involved in Lost&Found in college, and I probably should have been. I was, you know, the overachiever in many extracurricular activities. And I think I really could have used Lost&Found as a conduit in a safe space for me to kind of have that just self assessment and self kind of identity. I feel like college students when they’re overextended in extracurricular activities derive a lot of fulfillment, from the activities that they’re in. And they don’t take a lot of space for themselves, or I certainly didn’t to just to sit and assess my mental health and how I can best put my best foot forward. So that was why, you know, I was a year out of college, Erik calls me up and he’s like, hey, I’ve got this Lost&Found thing, you know, we’re kind of young kids green behind the ears, right out of college. How can we take this and make this a scalable, legitimate nonprofit, where we can continue even if we’ve left the college? sphere? How can we continue to make impact on those collegiate, collegiate communities?
Nathan Hofer 08:46
That’s awesome. And I do want to say if anyone, anyone who’s watching right now, if you haven’t picked up on it, Lost&Found started with a bunch of, you know, as you would set you just said, Anna, wet behind the ears, college students, but you know, people who have passion people who wanted to make a difference. And I think back to, you know, myself at age 18, and that was probably not the case for me. In fact, I feel superduper old with this group, because three of you, I know for sure, were students at universities I worked at. I laughed yesterday because I hired Deni as a tutor once upon a time. That’s a whole nother story. I’m ancient, it’s fine.
Deni Etriheim 09:25
Full circle for sure.
Nathan Hofer 09:26
Full circle. Yes. You know, it’s a it’s very interesting, though. And I think that’s just one of the things that makes makes the impact of Lost&Found so, so great is because it’s started from a space of need it started from a space with people in that in that, you know, they’re in the midst of it, they under you understood what those needs were for young adults, because you all were you all still are, but you were very much in the that realm of like, Hey, we’re in the we’re in the mix here. How do we, how do we help others there so, you know, Anna I’m going to bounce it right back to you here. But, you know, you, you are being the, as you said, the the newest to the crew here, what are some of those milestones that you’ve experienced that you’ve seen achieved during your time with Lost&Found and that’ll be the same for all of you just, you know, coming back?
Deni Etriheim 10:16
Definitely. So I actually went back in our Google Drive with the board of directors folders, and I went back to 2015, when I started, and my first board meeting, I’m not, I’m not here to embarrass anybody, but I just love seeing how far truly the organization has come. So some of our two dues from 2015 was to buy T-shirts, I see Elliott with that fancy logo that we worked very hard on to talk through. We were tasked with creating a Lost&Found tree at the time, we wanted a chapter retreat for our communities in at SDSU, SDSU and DSU. So we put that on, it was Kelsey, Eliott, Erik Muckey, and myself. And we worked with the current college members to do a retreat in January of 2016. Also, in 2016, we had done a huge fundraiser, which we were very excited about. And a lot of work had been put into that that was the Ugly Sweaters for Survivors party. And fundraiser event, it was a joint collaboration with the Survivors Joining for Hope organization. And it was on the west side of Sioux Falls. And we worked very hard for it, it was this, you know, it was in December, and it was a terrible winter storm. I mean, just like ice storm, it was so bad, we worked so hard. We were responsible for recruiting like six volunteers each and we had these goals set. And then the storm came and it was just did not go as well as we had planned. But the effort was there.
Anna Hyronimus 11:46
Also, within from 2015, we had just some discussions about a 5-501(c)3 renewal, where we were working to get that renewed so that we could look towards funding. And then also on the programming side, we were just in a lot of discussion about maybe that switch from Yes, we want it to be within the foundational part of the organization, we wanted to be suicide and depression awareness. And so we were trying to kind of expand that programming so that it was both proactive, and, you know, kind of that reactive nature. So we wanted to really get into the proactive side of how do we also create a safe space for people to focus on their mental health before it should get to suicidal ideation and thoughts of depression? And how can we focus on positive programming so that it’s not always like a heavy kind of area. And that’s where I think that true switch recently, I forget the year, but it was kind of that switch to resilience. And that focus on resiliency for self, community, and others That to me was just a really great kind of segue into a lot of the programming and the research that we’ve been doing in the past few years. I also had to text Erik on this, another big milestone was our first hire, we had, you know, a first like paid and unpaid hire, Erik, is the first hire. And I think that’s so cool that you know, he’s the executive director now. And that just is a huge full circle for him, I’m sure. But then we also had, you know, Nick Bradfold, who was our, I think, vice president or president, he was kind of our, like, unofficial first hire. And I just think it’s so cool. In 2015, you know, Erik was just always talking about the vision. And we’re gonna have this hierarchy, we’re gonna have these, you know, the structure of development. We have this director, he had the whole vision always. And I was just overwhelmed. Because I’m like, Erik, I haven’t even posted this week on social media channels. Like, I don’t even know what we’re doing. How many members do we have? I mean, I feel like I was kind of the black hat. And Erik always just had the vision. And I’m looking at 2020. And I’m like, Erik, like, this is happening. Kudos, you know, kudos team. So I’ll stop talking. I’ll let others go. But just a few milestones, and points of reflection that I want to share.
Nathan Hofer 14:04
That’s awesome. Elliott, why don’t you we’ll just go around the circle. And then then we’re gonna throw next question, I’m just gonna let it be free range, and we’re not going to whatever.
Elliott Breukelman 14:15
So I’ll expand a little bit on Anna’s, because you and I were there for a lot of that. I think, obviously, the one of the biggest milestones for the organization was college graduation, right? Like all of us were in college. And that makes that made it hard to do and focus on the organization. You’re trying to just graduate and get a job. But let me clarify, a job that actually pays the bills. So you know that I it’s an important aspect. So we had a graduation and then once we were no longer, my myself included, part of the chapter, you know, the university chapter. Then it was a natural transition to kind of move towards the the board. And we did that. We started meeting in Sioux Falls. We were joking yesterday, I think some of the funniest milestones is the progression of our meetings. They, you know, they kind of started at my apartment on South Side Sioux Falls, and then they moved to my apartment on North Side Sioux Falls. And then they moved to The Bakery, when they’re, you know, there was a place for us where we actually had an office, we were so excited about an office in Sioux Falls, and then the bakery closed, and then they move to Southside Sioux Falls again. And it’s just been this, this nice big cycle. And, you know, now with COVID, of course, all of our meetings are virtual. So, you know, one way or another, I think that was that was a kind of a funny milestone, throughout the time. But then another big big component that Anna kind of pointed to was this progression, right? The organization was, was really focused on suicide prevention, which I definitely think is a valiant cause, and one that’s near and dear to my heart. But a lot of the board kind of came up and said, you know, we should be taking a more proactive approach, we should be looking at holistic mental health, and not so much a reactive approach, like Anna mentioned. And that’s really when the organization started to shift. You know, the — again, we were joking yesterday, we talked about how we went through the mission vision values. And we did that almost every single year. And there was a very cyclical concept, right, where we kept kind of spinning our wheels, where we felt a little stuck. And then when the when that holistic mental health shift happened, that’s when the organization can really, you know, took off, you know, we realize, okay, there’s so much more that we can do with a holistic mental health approach, and being proactive than always trying to be reactive. So I think those were some of the largest milestones from when I was involved in the org.
Nathan Hofer 17:08
Awesome. Thank you, Elliot, Deni, what about you?
Deni Etriheim 17:14
I have like five, so I’ll try to be selective as best I can. I don’t take up the whole time. One of the biggest things that my BP and I wanted us do, Kelsey Betke, we really wanted to try and–not showcase Lost&Found, but do something to get people’s attention. When we first started as an organization, we were very small, but just a little group of warriors that we have that we’re trying to do as big of an impact as we could. And it was coming up on Suicide Awareness Day. And so I wanted to do something on campus visually, that would really impact students. And so I was talking with my mom, and we’re racking around ideas as best we could. And we decided we wanted to put flags in an area on campus to represent the number of students that die by suicide every year. And I remember Kelsey and I going from Harbor Storage to like Bongard’s and Menard’s, we were asking for white flags, and people thought we were nuts. But we worked really hard. We found all the flags we could, and work with the university, and it was a very odd request, okay, we put hundreds of flags in the ground, like, we won’t ruin anything. And it was very odd request, what we explain the why and the intention to like, yep, you go for it, do what you got to do. I could have sat there all day outside of the Student Union at SDSU. And just watch people’s faces as that person–what is this, construction going on? and then they sit and read and you can just see the impact it had for them to really take in, like every single one of those flags represents a human life. And that just instilled such a passion in Kelsey and I. Like, if our efforts can just remove even one of those flags next year, it’s all worth it, right? And it’s so amazing and incredible to see that that is still a thing they do on campus, they still have the same white flags. I’m sure some of them have no idea who I even AM, which is the whole purpose, right? It’s about awareness. And it’s about doing something as an organization not doing something as a person. I didn’t want to leave campus with a, “oh that flag project that was Deni’s” like, no, that’s not the point. The point is what can we do to reduce the number of those flags that are there and to help people have resources and that kind of thing. So for me, that was just such a vivid memory and I still have that picture in my phone that we took and our little picket signs that we put in there of Lost&Found and we had so many people coming up and asking us about our organization after that and how they could help with an article in The Collegian. And so I think it just really got us going as an organization and as a student chapter mostly honestly, but it’s great to be able to have those kind of memories and to hopefully make a difference using some things like that.
Nathan Hofer 19:55
That’s awesome. And DJ, you know, you’ve been, well you you are the, to use Anna’s words, the original OG of this. So you’ve seen lots of stuff, you know, yeah, this is a vision that you helped develop. So I’d love to hear — Yeah, I’d love to hear your take, what are some things that you’ve seen, achieved over the years here?
DJ Smith 20:17
Every time someone spoke as I need to, I need to go back to that now I just, I’m lost, because there’s just been so much change really, from really what Elliot and Anna were talking about, from that micro level to that macro level, really going towards resilience rather than focusing on suicide prevention after the fact, all the way to what Danny was saying, where this is just so much bigger than us. And we really want this impact to be not what we did, but what the organization did. And I think all of that is incredibly important. Big. It, it’s really hard for me to think about, like what the large achievements were, because when we first started, I don’t even know if that school project counts as Lost&Found, necessarily, but as soon as that happened, I, I had spoken with Erik Muckey and a few other people, I was like, Okay, this happened, I want to do something more with this project. And that, really, with Erik and a few other people, is what started last and found you we go back and talk about creating the mission and the values and rethinking about it every single year. I knew a name that would fit was also a challenge. And I am grateful that we did settle on Lost&Found in the name Lost&Found for me really creates the spectrum of mental health well-being that we can probably discuss a little bit later. The inception of the USD chapter was really cool. Just seeing so many people come together in that first meeting and say, Okay, we’re here, we want to make a difference. What do we do? Because let’s be real when you are 18 years old, and you’re like, Hey, I have an idea. And we can do something great. Okay, now, how do we, how do we take that idea, and we make something sustainable out of it. And there’s a gal named Morgan, who really led USD’s Lost&Found chapter, and she did amazing stuff with every year a battle of the bands that raised money for Lost&Found with a local band who was impacted by a suicide. Another big thing was working with Elliott. Again, student leaders run in small circles and finding out Elliott was doing stuff that wanted to have an impact with Lost&Found was awesome. Working with Elliott and student government, even outside of Lost&Found to impact policies to help students with their mental health was, I would argue a milestone that would not have happened, had we not had the passion from Lost&Found.
Nathan Hofer 23:17
That’s awesome. And I think it’s important to note that, you know, we, unfortunately, I think we can all, I know all of you, but I think anyone watching this, the unfortunate thing is, I think we all know someone or have been connected to someone who’s committed suicide, and we know that. That’s, that’s the reality. You know, that’s, that’s an unfortunate, that’s an unfortunate reality, let’s be honest. But we all understand that sense of loss, and we all understand the space that we’re in. And so as you were talking, you know, Anna and Elliot, and it was specifically about that shift from into resiliency on that shift into preventative, I think that’s, that’s a huge piece. Because you all have the vision, I want to also just congratulate you all again, you know, being 18. And kicking that off, you have passion and fire and energy that a lot of folks, you know, lose in life. And you you took it, harnessed it and and roped it into creating this organization, which I obviously think is pretty, pretty darn neat. Because I you know, where I’m working, obviously, I know, it’s a part of the mission. It’s this, this passion, and it’s all developed from the work that all of you have helped lay. But I think it’s important to know that we shared some awesome milestones, but it’s kind of maybe, let’s, let’s get into it a little bit here. And just, you know, let’s be honest about what were some of the things that were that were hard, what were some of the challenges that you all faced, because I’m sure people want to know what some of the like we can talk about our successes all the time. But, you know, the journey comes in the hardships sometimes. So I think it’d be great to hear some of those and Elliot, I saw you unmute yourself real quick, but so Deni, so I’m just gonna I’m gonna shut up and let you do it.
DJ Smith 24:58
Elliott Breukelman 25:03
Yeah, well, DJ, why don’t you lead us off.
DJ Smith 25:06
I think we had a really good conversation about this. The Nathan, Deni, Elliott and I, really recently because you, you don’t start an organization like Lost&Found without having issues of your own. And a big thing for me and I wrote a blog post about this, I haven’t shared it yet. I wrote a very personal blog post about struggling with mental health myself, and espousing these values that we need to really reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. Where at the same time, I was unwilling to talk about my own struggles. And, like, I felt like a hypocrite, I felt like a fraud. And I think it really drove a wedge between myself and the organization. And for several years, I carried around this feeling of what could I have done differently, and I don’t know that I could have. And I know that because of the conversation we had just two days ago, that just, you know, were young kids, and we have feelings, and our feelings are valid, and we want to make a difference. But it’s so hard when you have all of that going on at the same time. And it’s really easy when you are struggling with things like depression and things that you are struggling with, through anxiety and being able to trust other people, when you are leading an organization with your peers and your friends. And your mentors. And I wish I could have asked for help a lot more often than I did. And I’m very thankful for the people who are still working with Lost&Found that I’ve really been able to take this vision and bring it to life and build upon it. But one of the issues I think being in college, not having someone full-time dedicated to Lost&Found and, and struggling with your own mental health and learning about resilience. Not not even considering resilience. When you’re you’re thinking about the mission until years after the inception of the organization. I thought was a challenge that I held on my own. And it was humbling, and it was, um, it made me think twice to hear that I wasn’t the only person who, who had these thoughts and had these struggles.
Elliott Breukelman 27:56
I mean, I think it’s important to note too, that depression, anxiety, mental health looks different for every person, right. And every person reacts to those stressors in different ways. Myself, I sacrificed friendships and relationships, and put everything into work, work as a student leader, work in Lost&Found, work with my employer, and, and put everything else on the back burner. Until I got help and recognized what was going on in my life. You know, that — that was that was my life. And I just think that no one person is that is that blame or at fault for anything that happens in any organization, when especially there’s so many contributing factors. Our age and inexperience was was a large one. Right? So I am so proud of where the organization is today. But we all know that without the vision of multiple 18 to 20 year olds, you know, it wouldn’t be.
Deni Etriheim 29:06
Yeah, absolutely. I think where we were at are different points in life. And even throughout the years of, you know, this organization developing, we’ve all had to take kind of a setback at times and that kind of thing. And not just for mental health struggles ourselves, but maybe even just life. You know, all of us dealing with college and trying to find jobs and that kind of thing. We’ve all had to kind of have each other’s back, take different turns at trying to lead this organization. So it’s wonderful to see that we have dedicated resources and people now to continue that and to help support that. I think one of the biggest struggles for me was kind of the stigma of getting people to participate in this organization. That’s kind of twofold. I think they felt they either needed to be really well versed in mental health issues and be almost a professional on that side of things or on the flip side of things. They need to have everything all together to be able to help a loss of bound. And that’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen is that that’s completely untrue. We have such a wide spectrum of people participating with people who maybe have never really had an honest conversation about mental health struggles with anyone before, but they want to help regardless. And we have people who are in the thick of it, and are really struggling with various issues of their family members or their friends are. And they just need resources and support and someone to talk to. And it’s been wonderful to see how we can support such a wide spectrum of people and where they’re at in life. And so it’s good to see us overcoming that. But I do think that’s a stigma we’re going to continue to face as an organization is just that transparency with where people are at and, and that you’re all welcome, regardless of where you are at in those struggles.
Elliott Breukelman 30:48
I remember, and Anna might feed off of this, but I mean, I remember right before, kind of this organizational shift happened. I mean, just procedural stuff was a struggle for us, right, the the National 501c3, we filed that three different times. The first time it got sent back for changes. And you know, that was like a, it was our first time we’ll try again, it’ll be okay. We found it the second time. And when it came back the second time, it was like, Ah, you know, it’s it’s just it was a struggle. And it was, it was hard to feel defeated, when all you’re trying to do is is help. And, you know, if you don’t, you know, dot the right i or cross the right t procedurally, it just sets you back. So you know, file the third time. And that third time got accepted. But, you know, just just things like that, that are always just kind of the world pushing back.
DJ Smith 31:52
So not only that, the first one that we were given the wrong paperwork. That was months of, Okay, we’ve got all the stuff. Oh, no, we don’t. Yeah.
Deni Etriheim 32:08
Yeah, I would definitely agree with that procedurally, and I guess, to the heart of what you guys are saying to it was this protection of personal boundaries. And I think in college, I had no ability to derive my own personal boundaries, because I always like just felt this impetus to want to push my efforts to the limit, you know, I wanted to just do my best in a lot of different avenues. And so as we kind of migrated from the collegiate space to board members, and we’re still like Elliott mentioned, procedurally, we’re trying to support our current chapter members. And because we’re no longer in college, but they are we’re trying to support them the way you guys were collegiate members, and you were leading this Lost&Found organization. And so it was like, how do we pass the torch, while also respecting their personal boundaries, while also respecting mine, when you know, I’m a board member, but we all have full-time jobs, and we’re trying to meet, you know, weekly, bi weekly, and monthly, and we’re still trying to at the time, I was operations and marketing. So I worked with Kelsey with some of the programming. She worked directly with the different chapters, just with reporting and to see how they were doing. But it was like, how do we become the umbrella organization? And how do we create this protocol while also supporting the other chapters? I think it just goes down to boundaries. And that was probably the biggest challenge is, you know, up until we could have enough funds to hire staff to really move forward with the vision and the mission. It was like, how do we make this float? Then it’s just yeah, it’s just amazing to kind of reflect five years later and just see this happening. It’s just incredible.
Elliott Breukelman 33:42
I think that Anna brought up a really good point, you know, one of the biggest struggles for this organization, especially as a young org, was the almost the the chicken-and-egg scenario, right? We knew that we needed to fundraise to get money, but we needed money to be able to put on programming and fundraising. And the, you know, I just have to send a huge shout out to any of our donors that might be watching this morning. Because, you know, seriously without our donors, our corporate sponsors, we would not be anywhere where we are today. Right? The gifts that have been given to Lost&Found over time, have really enabled us to actually do our vision and our mission, you know, hiring Nathan, hiring Erik, having full-time staff. That is the biggest thing, I think, from a from a milestone perspective, because without full time staff, I mean, Anna, you moved, I moved, right? Like life happens, our personal lives and our employment happen. And so a lot of us that started in Sioux Falls and started with this core group. no longer live in Sioux Falls and support the organization remotely.
Deni Etriheim 34:58
Remember, one of our very first fundraisers that we did at SDSU was the 5K with the Helpline Center. And that just led to a really great partnership. But we got done with the first one. And we had like, raised almost $8,000. And we were so excited. And then Kelsey and I looked each other went crap, what are we supposed to do is like, what? Something but we can’t just say thanks for your money, but we don’t know what to do, right. And so it’s really wonderful to be able to give back not only to the Helpline Center, but to SD State and to be able to see those dollars used. And some of the funding we were able to use early on helped us to bring in the Helpline Center and give our team members some training on some suicide prevention tactics and some capabilities to spot mental health struggles early on, I think I just gave our groups of confidence, we need him to, you know, understand that, no, we’re not going to be professionals. We’re not psychiatrists, like, we’re not medical professionals in the mental health industry, but we have the tools, we will help from a student perspective, from a friend perspective. And we can actually, you know, be a bridge between just an average Joe student or someone who is struggling and the mental health professionals. And so those dollars were used so wonderfully, and to be able to also help, you know, the foundation get up and running, as well as some of those dollars. So yeah, we absolutely appreciate every donor that has come through our doors, whether it’s $1, or you know, X number of dollars, they’re all being put towards good use. And we’ll continue to do so throughout the future.
DJ Smith 36:30
Just rewinding here a lot, both to the milestones and the obviously, thank you so much for the donors that have kept Lost&Found a fall for so many years. One of the big things we used to do would, at one point, we were making braceletes out of beads, like I’m not even kidding you we had Lost&Found bracelets that we were giving away to people. I did a lot of public speaking or Lost&Found early on, the farthest I went I think was St. Louis, for is anyone familiar with FCCLA? So I was Yeah, um, if you’re from the Midwest, you probably have heard of FCCLA. But I would speak at FCCLA events from in St. Louis and South Dakota and Sioux Falls. I would go to high schools. Our first big donation was when Erik Muckey and I went to speak at Sam ? another student leader and someone who was involved with with Lost&Found we went to her high school and they gave us I think it was $500. And, you know, we’ve had some significant donations. And even now, the organization has seen some pretty significant donations, and I’m sure more will continue to come. But at that time, it’s like, okay, we have $500. Kind of like what Deni said, that right, like, what do we do now? It’s always been, I think we’ve done a good job, whether that’s making making shirts for the website or doing marketing campaigns. Every dollar makes a huge difference, and it always has.
Nathan Hofer 38:18
Yeah, and I just want to echo what you all have said here, just briefly and give a shout out to all the people who’ve walked alongside this organization. You know, we, we work with some great organizations in our community, you know, we have some of those folks coming on at noon here to noon, that’s a different one to today. But you know, you mentioned the helpline center, they’ve been around with our crew for a long time. And, you know, we were in the space together. And so I want to give a shout out to all those people who partnered with us in the past. And, you know, once again, like you said to our donors, because we’re nonprofit, yeah, you don’t, we don’t, we don’t move forward without, without support without funding. And, you know, we’re, we try to do everything we can to make our programming accessible and free, you know, as best we can. And I’d feel remiss if I didn’t take a quick second here to just toss this up. We are in the midst of our 10-year campaign here our $10,000 for 10 years, 10K for 10. And we have some great matching donation. So if you’re interested, you know, you’re watching this, you know, when you’re you want to donate $1, or, you know, more than that, as you know, you don’t take I’ll take $1 I’ll take you know, whatever we can bring in but at the end of the day, this is going to go back to our chapters in our programming initiative. So then you touched on something really important, I think there that we we don’t, we can’t do I like that chicken or the egg statement like yeah, we want to do these programs. And we need to fundraise to that but we don’t have money to do the fundraising to do the program to do so. You know, there’s it’s a it’s a crazy cycle. But we’ve we’ve been very blessed to have a lot of people walk alongside this organization. We’re very grateful for that. As a, you know, as I, you know, segue off of that, I’d love to hear something. Well, anything from any of you, really. But you know, what, what are some things that, you know, maybe surprised you about your time with Lost&Found, or you know, maybe you have something that you didn’t expect to get out of this organization. But you did.
Elliott Breukelman 40:25
I guess I’ll go first. And I think I think everybody can, can pretty much echo the sentiment, right? Again, I started with Lost&Found when I was having my own struggles with with mental health. And Anna kind of mentioned this, this almost like, self insight and self realization that, you know, I’m not walking this path alone, there are other people. And that feeling that, you know, nobody should feel like they’re alone on that walk. So for me, it was really just that, that almost like, awakening that, you know, I’m not alone, I do have people that that can help. Other people are going through the same things as me. And really taking those and focusing that effort it back into Lost&Found.
Deni Etriheim 41:19
Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I think, like, humans at any, and many times in our lives, there’s like a sense and a feeling of brokenness, and that we are connected in kind of that brokenness. You know, it’s like no one has to go at it alone has been a really important realization for me. And I guess the other one is just the one thing that surprised me that Lost&Found has given me after talking amongst ourselves with just all of the ebbs and flows of this journey is just how, how much of a stable piece, it’s been in my life, since 2015, you know, I married a guy in the military, and we have moved like three or four times. So every year, I feel like we’re in a different place. And so the fact that I can always kind of come come back to board meetings into the same community, and just to see how far we’ve progressed, it’s been like, one of the most stable things in my life, which is just funny to admit that, happy to be here, very grateful for the organization. And
DJ Smith 42:15
I feel like there’s been a very smooth transition so far with this with this conversation. But I think stability is an incredibly important thing that we’ve all gotten out of this. And, you know, if you would have told me in 2012, that a lot of the people that I was working with, I would still have a connection to eight years later, I suppose I wouldn’t have been incredibly shocked. But the the way we are connected is much different than I would have thought. We all grew up with the stereotypes and the stigmas of this is how you are supposed to be if you are xy and z, and growing up as a male person in the Midwest who is not straight, to be frank, you know, you hear you don’t have feelings. You know, you have to keep this to yourself, you have to keep this bottle, then, you know, you’re not allowed to show how you feel and Lost&Found has always been a place where it is OK to, you know, open up a little bit, even though that’s something I struggled with. Without that struggle in my life early on without Lost&Found having an impact on me, I would not, I would not be able to reach out to Elliot, reach out to Erik, I would love to reach out to Deni and then Nathan a lot more than I that I do that’s on me. But I feel so incredibly comfortable. Or whatever. I just I feel so incredibly comfortable speaking with the people in my life that are a part of this organization. I think that’s fantastic.
Deni Etriheim 44:03
I think for me, it’s given me a purpose and a home. Not some too cheesy, but I think in a sense, kind of like Anna and Elliot have said, you know, people deal with stress differently. They deal with mental health struggles differently. You know, I suffer from really severe anxiety. And so for me, the best thing is to keep busy. The limits I’ve learned thanks Lost&Found, but for me, it gave me a way to help people when I didn’t always have help myself. And so that purpose there and to be able to feel like I’m doing something for others while still doing something for myself. I mean, you can’t put a price tag on that. And a home in the sense that we’re trying to normalize talking about struggles with mental health. I can’t say that, you know, when I was just getting out of high school going into college, I would comfortably say like I struggle with anxiety, like that’s not something that I even probably identified at that time. And it wasn’t something that I really wanted to talk about because I didn’t know how. And so for me to now use that not necessarily as a platform, but that’s an identifier. And I will label myself with that, probably because it’s a big part of who I am. And I don’t think that if I didn’t have lots of on my life, I don’t think I’d ever feel comfortable labeling myself, let alone saying that’s just kind of something I embrace now.
Nathan Hofer 45:21
And I would say, Oh, sorry, Elliott, you talk.
Elliott Breukelman 45:24
No, you’re good. No, I just wanted to kind of circle back on something DJ said, you know, DJ brought up geography, which I think is a huge, huge component of what Lost&Found is, you know, DJ brought up a great point that with the geography of Lost&Found that, you know, we all grew up in the Midwest. And the, the certain stigmas that are associated with Midwest living are completely different when you go someplace else. So I think a large component of Lost&Found is dealing with the stigma and, and its home base of Sioux Falls is so perfect. Because it’s, it’s just, it just seems like people in South Dakota just don’t talk about their feelings, the stigmas, mental health in general, it’s always a struggle. And then you you look at some of the other places in the United States, typically larger cities and on the coasts, but it’s, it’s just a much more common thing to talk about. It’s okay to not be okay. And that’s something that, you know, we’re really pushing for in the Midwest to to change that perception.
DJ Smith 46:37
Yeah, you’re still muted, Nathan.
Nathan Hofer 46:39
Oh, that’s embarrassing. That’s terribly embarrassing.
DJ Smith 46:43
I thought it was gonna be me. So
Nathan Hofer 46:46
Well, yeah, it’s fine. I was gonna say you mentioned community and geography. I think that’s really fascinating. Because I’m, I’m really, I’m the new I’m the newbie to this crew. And I’m, I’m fine with that. But I’ve noticed just in our time together, as we prep for today, just how it was like none of you skipped a beat when connected, it was like, You hadn’t been separated. It’s it’s hilarious, as you mentioned, geography alien, because we have our own private chat going here and DJ’s in Seattle. Anna’s in Miami, Deni and I are in Sioux Falls, you know, we’re like, we cover we’re going coast to coast in like a line. You know, it’s pretty funny if you think about it. And yeah, it’s like, like, literally, and DJ, you probably couldn’t be further away in the United States, unless one of you was in Hawaii, or Alaska, but those are not contiguous. So
Anna Hyronimus 47:34
Literally, like, like the spectrum could not be much farther.
DJ Smith 47:41
Let’s figure out the mileage after this.
Well, why have you all answered the question, I’ll do a Google Maps and be real fun. So, you know, we are kind of nearing the end of our time here together. And to wrap it up, I think I’d love to hear from all of you. If you can get it’s a two fold question. So you’re gonna, two things to remember, I’m so sorry. It’s real difficult for me. But you know, if you could go back in time, give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be? And then also, what was maybe one of your favorite memories? What was one of your favorite memories within your time with Lost&Found? I know that one might be tricky. They both both are tricky. But you know, I think that vulnerability, the power of stories, you’ve talked about that, that that’s gonna, you know, that makes this even more real, and we get to hear from all of you. So, advice, memories.
Deni Etriheim 48:34
I’m going to go first, so I don’t forget both of the questions. I think my biggest thing of as far as advice goes is don’t worry about the numbers and what the future holds. I had no idea it would become what it did. And that wasn’t just all on me. And it wasn’t about me and that kind of thing. But it we spent so much time I think there were meetings where it would just be my VP and I’m like, Where the heck is everybody? Like, what’s going on? What are we doing here? Is this even worth it? That kind of thing. And so I think I wish I could have told myself like, just keep pushing forward and you have supporters, whether they’re in your meetings are not or whether they’re, you know, watching videos or not, or engaging, you know, people out there do actually care about it. And it was a purpose that was absolutely worth it. And then the memories aspect. This is such a strange, roundabout story. So, um, when I was in college, there was this Facebook group that was like to think Jackrabbits Anonymous and all these colleges were doing it and a lot of people are going on there and posting a cool boy walking down the street with the brown hair. You’re really cute kind of thing, right? But there was actually it was a strange outlet for people to really talk about their mental health struggles and an anonymous platform, which was fairly new at that time. And it hit us like a wave. It was crazy. We all of a sudden were having messages with the admins these groups and it was phenomenal to see people tagging Lost&Found and suggesting people leverage them as a resource. We have people tag us in these posts. I’m like, I have no idea who you are. How do you even know who we are like, I’ve never seen your name. But I appreciate it like thanks, stranger for you know, setting people our way. And I think that, like, I just have goosebumps right now talking about it, because it just was not about us. It was about our purpose and our organization. And there’s these people we’ve never met before that knew that that purpose was worthwhile. And that was just one of the coolest memories for me to see and to be able to, you know, just feel supported and feel loved and feel like we truly were fulfilling our purpose at our campus.
Elliott Breukelman 50:44
Alright, I’ll go next. For me, I think the the piece of advice, certainly, it’s something that I’ve I’ve said multiple times so far. But the the component of it’s okay to not be okay. Right. I think the biggest thing for me is, if I could give myself that advice, you know, eight years ago, that would have helped me immensely, right. And it’s, it’s one thing from having somebody say it to you, but it’s a complete different thing to live it. So I think that would be the advice. And then the memories, there’s so many great memories, right? I have a great memory, and then I’m going to go a little bit darker. So one of the one of the greatest memories that I have is right when we started the DSU chapter, you know, we had DJ up who, who kind of gave a conversation with the students. And I handed at the end DJ, this gigantic check. That was fantastic. I love that memory. Because, you know, he, he’s like, What am I supposed to do with this? So that was kind of fun. Yeah, right. “How do I take this to the bank?” And then, you know, the other memories, you know, they’re really kind of fuel to keep us going. So I specifically remember meeting with parents whose child had committed suicide. I remember going to funerals of kids that had committed suicide. Those are the really difficult memories, but they’re the memories that fuel us to go out into our communities and, and fight this fight. And so for me, those are really important, just as good as just as important as the good memories. Awesome.
DJ Smith 52:38
Both of you just saying these things really brought back a lot of memories and moments that, you know, I remember the USD confessions page, and now just thinking back to Lost&Found being tagged and being able to be a resource in that way. It was a good thing, even as the confession pages themselves were a little bit toxic. There were moments in there that people were able to be a resource, I think a piece of advice I would, again, going going third, it’s really hard to say advice I would give myself that hasn’t already been said but you aren’t alone. It’s okay to ask for help are two very big things. One of the ways my my anxiety would often hit me is I would feel like I’m just in everything on my own. And I would be too afraid to ask for help. And obviously, that’s not true. And it’s something we all learn at our own pace. But it’s something that I probably should have heard much, much sooner in my life. One memory I have, again, going off as Elliot, sometimes it feels a little bit dark. But you see the light at the end of the tunnel when a student at the University of South Dakota, lost his life to suicide and seen the entire, like enormous community come together for a candlelight vigil. And not only that, creating an event afterwards, in his name to raise awareness and funds to the battle for suicide prevention with an organization that was outside of Lost&Found. So a lot of what we do and a lot of–it’s to prove–it’s hard to put into words. I think at this point. A lot of what we do is to make it so we don’t have to do fundraising and awareness the way that we’ve done in the past. And it is a reminder that the greater community is there to support organizations like Lost&Found. And it’s also a reminder of why we do what we do. And maybe not the, you know, the happiest memory I have had, but it’s definitely one that made a huge impact on me.
Anna Hyronimus 55:19
Realizing I should have gone first, because I don’t know how I’m gonna follow all of you, Danny, that was a great decision on your part. One piece of advice that I would have for my younger self, is to learn how to create personal boundaries early and often. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. You don’t have to be “Yes, man” all the time. Your space is worth protecting. Your “no” is a full sentence. You know, just that creation of personal boundaries is personally something I still struggle with. It’s like, I love being a yes, man, I love helping others. I pour into others cups, and then I look at my own. And I’m like, what’s left? And I think just that mindset would have served me really well to switch that thought process early, early on. The other piece of advice is to trust the vision. I wish I would have given myself more opportunities to think what if this works, as opposed to like contingency planning, like, Okay, how do we prevent this from going to the ground? should not have been as pessimistic as Okay, how do we plan so that when this works, like, these are the problems we’re going to have? And I do credit Erik Muckey for being that person. And I was kind of the blackhat. That was like, well, we have to, you know, we have to protect this organization, what if it fails next month, and he just had the opposite thinking, I think Elliot and Erik both did great jobs of that when we were post college. So those are kind of the two pieces of advice. And then I guess the memories, when I truly felt that this could be a legacy that would move on past us was in the 2016 chapter retreat. It was, you know, Erik, Elliott, Kelsey, myself, and then the presidents and the members have each of the three Lost&Found chapters at the time. And we have this concept, you know, I took Professor Roach’s classes, and he talks a lot at USD about living and looking around the lantern. And, you know, there’s a lantern in the center of the room. And everybody’s stories and histories have different perspectives based on like that lantern that you’re looking at, and how it’s impossible to see on the other side of it. So we sat in a circle, and we were just talking about kind of that concept, and also the concept of being lost and being found. And just being able to have the privilege of creating a safe space for those college members and the board members to sit around the circle, and talk about moments when we felt lost. And then moments and ways that we feel found, heard and understood. Just gives me goosebumps thinking about it’s like that’s kind of the impact where that was like the light bulb went off about us creating programming, that turned into a legacy that can help college students year after year after year, and that it can supersede us. So that was you know, very positive memory that I still reflect on and still like so incredibly thankful and happy to be a part of.
Nathan Hofer 58:23
That’s awesome. And before I end us here, I just wanted to this is not anything important. But I just thought it’d be fun to pull up here quick, because, as you talked about it, look at that 48 hours, 3300 miles away, but you drive through Sioux Falls, so the best.
DJ Smith 58:40
So it’s kind of worth it. It’s kind of like a like a pit stop there.
Nathan Hofer 58:44
You only have to drive for 48 hours straight or 24 hours to stop in Sioux Falls. So you know,
Nathan, would you have any advice and memories you wanted to share?
Nathan Hofer 58:56
Oh, me, no one cares what I have to say.
DJ Smith 58:58
Nathan Hofer 59:02
I was just gonna say, you know, I think back to you know, my time as a student and my time as working with students, because my background is in higher ed, I worked in higher ed for 10 years before coming here, and it’s very cool to see. You know, like I said, I definitely remember several of you being students when I worked at your institution, which lies and makes me feel real old. But that’s neither here or there. But it’s, it’s really, it’s really great to just see how much of an impact you can make and knowing that that community is, is there and it’s ready to be impactful. So I have lots of things I can say, but I know we we have some folks who need to get out of here at 10. But I can you know if anyone has questions, they want to talk to me or talk to any of these wonderful people. Feel free to reach out to us hit us up on our social media platforms. You can reach us all at Instagram and Facebook at resilient today. We definitely want to connect with you, we want to connect with each other. And I just want to say, you know, thank you again, to all of you for the work you did. You know, the, as we talk about mental health and well being, this is stuff resilience, you can learn whether you’re 18 or 72. You know, we can we can learn that and develop that and, and grow through that. So, yeah, I’m so thankful for all of you and the work and the passion that you put into this organization to bring it to today. And just a quick shout out. He couldn’t be here with us today. But Erik, Erik Muckey, our CEO, he is a he he’s, you know, what? 28, something like that. And he’s got the wisdom of someone who’s like, you know, 280. It’s crazy. Apparently, the the health of one, too, just kidding, he’s fine. He’s healthy. He’s good. But you know, we’re thankful for everyone in this in this in this group. So thank you all so much for being here. And I really, we should do that we should have this something like this again, keep keep the conversation going.
Deni Etriheim 1:01:05
It’s an honor to be here. Thank you so much for having me. And thank you donors. Thank you original members. This is then an incredible celebration to kick off 10 years. Yes.
DJ Smith 1:01:16
This has been so much fun. It’s been so great. just sharing stories and experiences. Erik get better. We missed you. Nathan, thank you, donors. Thank you other people.
Nathan Hofer 1:01:31
All right. Well, we’ll see you all we have something at noon. Come back to facebook live right here at noon. And we’ll talk about the present where we’re at today. See you then.
Anna Hyronimus 1:01:39