Utah man climbs Kilimanjaro to honor suicide victims

UTAH COUNTY, Utah - He’s hiked dozens of mountains before, but not quite like this.

“I said, ‘I got to do this video; I need to do this,” said Jon Groneman, a Springville resident.

Groneman’s trek up Mount Kilimanjaro was inspired by a recent trip to his LDS Temple in Provo. He got the inspiration to climb for something other than just himself.

“I had seen many times on Facebook friends who had lost children to suicide,” Groneman said. Utah has one of the highest rates of suicide in the country. “I had seen many of their posting where an anniversary comes up or a birthday and it’s always painful for them.”

Groneman’s solution: to give his friends something to smile about when they logged on to social media.  To do that, he wrote down the names of the people his friends lost to suicide. Next, he placed them in his backpack with the idea of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with them.  All the while, the family members followed along during his journey on social media.

“I can go experience the smells, the colors, the hills, the culture, and just take them along with me,” Groneman added.

As word of his mission spread, families began reaching out to him. By the time he left the United States for Africa, he had over 25 names with him.

“Some sent pictures, others sent stories,” he added.

Once at the top, he pulled them out one-by-one and recorded a video showing their names at the top of the mountain.

“The main thing was I wanted for them to have a day in honor of their loved one that was a good day,” Groneman said.

Groneman plans on hiking a mountain in South America in a couple years.

“Maybe I’ll take these kids with me again,” he said with a smile. “We’ll see."

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-273-TALK. Utahns can also visit Hope4Utah and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center for additional resources. You can also download the SafeUT app for instant, confidential crisis services.