Wrestling for life

Wrestling for Life coins are engraved with a lifeline number for law enforcement officers and firefighters in crisis.

Later this month, on Nov. 14, Turtle’s Bar and Grill in Shakopee will be hosting an event to raise awareness and prevent suicide among the community’s law enforcement officers and firefighters as part of a campaign called Wrestling for Life.

Michelle Starbeck, the owner of Stacked Consignment, which is across the street from Turtle’s, said her business is helping to sponsor the event because it’s an intersection of two things that hit close to home: her grandfather was a firefighter, and someone very close to her committed suicide 10 years ago.

“I’ve never put my business name on anything,” Starbeck said. “But this, I’m like, I will stand behind this 100%.”

The event will raise money to purchase lifeline coins, which are large, heavy coins engraved with a suicide prevention number, so each law enforcement officer in Shakopee can keep one in their pocket. The cause was started by Coon Rapids resident Carol Castle, who lost her son to suicide two years ago. He was a firefighter.

The foundation has only been up and running for six months, but Castle said she’s sold about 2,300 coins. What makes them different, the women say, is the lifeline number goes directly to an organization called Safe Call, which consists of law enforcement officers who are trained to deal with crisis situations.

“If you’re in crisis and you dial the number of a call center, they’re going to put you on hold and then it’s too late,” Starbeck said.

The lifeline coins come at a time of heightened awareness toward law enforcement suicide. Just this week, two Minnesota police officers died by suicide. In the U.S., 192 law enforcement officers have died by suicide in 2019, which is nearly double the number of officers who have died in the line of duty, according to the Minnesota Chiefs Police Association. New York City received national attention this summer following nine New York Police Department suicides in a span of a few months.

Castle began Wrestling for Life six months ago, just a year-and-a-half after her son died of suicide, and she said there are 2,300 law enforcement officers around the nation — in every state — with these coins in their pockets. She said she has already received an overwhelming amount of support and gratitude from law enforcement officers and their families.

Castle mentioned businesses, families or individuals can adopt an entire law enforcement department, which means they can purchase a life coin for every officer.

Starbeck talked about the importance of protecting the officers who consistently protect their community, and she remembered the times her grandfather left Christmas dinner to respond to a fire call.

“These are the people leaving their families to go help your family all the time,” Starbeck said.

Most of the 2,300 coins sold belong to officers and firefighters on the north side of the river, so Castle and Starbeck are excited to welcome the coins into Shakopee.

“I had a customer who said she wants to order coins for the 10 cops in her small town,” Starbeck said. “If there’s a spouse or child who doesn’t have to get that horrible phone call because their loved one has this coin, that’s the whole world to that family. I don’t think people realize how much (suicide) wrecks your whole world.”

Law enforcement is at particular risk of suicide because of the tragic scenes they witness and, oftentimes, their immediate access to firearms, the women said.

According to the latest available figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate among police officers is about 16 per 100,000, and the suicide rate among the general population is about 14 per 100,000.

Starbeck said the Shakopee Police Department is backing the organization. Shakopee Police Chief Jeff Tate was out of the office and could not immediately respond to comment on the event.

The event at Turtle’s, 132 1st Ave. E., slated for 6-8 p.m., will be $20 for a ticket, which will cover the cost of two coins, and will also provide appetizers from Turtle’s and one drink from Shakopee Brewhall for each guest. There will also be $1 raffle tickets to win prizes, and for those who know law enforcement officers or firefighters outside of Shakopee, Wrestling for Life will also be selling coins.

Starbeck said if they sell enough coins, the additional coins will go to corrections officers and the sheriff’s department at Scott County.

“I feel like Shakopee is so different… a lot of towns as they get bigger lose their small town feel,” Starbeck said.

Maddie DeBilzan graduated with a journalism degree from Bethel University. She’s interned at Salon Media and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Outside of work, she sifts through Goodwill clothing racks, listens to Ben Rector's music and goes on long runs.

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