Kiersten’s Ride: In memory of a local teen

Kiersten’s Ride will raise funds for local suicide prevention programs Saturday, Aug. 17 in East Jordan.

The Clavier family and friends will host the 12-mile horse ride in memory of Kiersten Clavier, who died at the age of 17 in August 2012. She was the daughter of David and Lisa Clavier of East Jordan.

“We decided it was a nice way to honor her and bring awareness to the cause because horseback riding was something she loved to do,” said Lisa Clavier, Kiersten Clavier’s mother. “Everybody’s afraid to talk about suicide. Nobody wants to say the word, and not talking about it doesn’t help.”

The event will raise funds for North Country Community Mental Health to further develop suicide prevention programs in Charlevoix and Emmet counties. North Country Community Mental Health provides behavioral health services to residents of six Northern Michigan counties, said Dr. Michael Lucido, a North Country Community Mental Health psychologist who worked with Kiersten Clavier. The agency served 845 children between five years old and 17 years old in 2012.

Kiersten’s Ride participants will leave East Jordan Aug. 17 at 9:30 a.m. The memorial ride through the back roads between East Jordan and Charlevoix will conclude at Family Farm & Home in Charlevoix. There, the Clavier family and friends will offer lunch and greet visitors from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Find a detailed route of Kiersten’s Ride here:

View Kiersten’s Ride 2013 in a larger map

A love for horses

Horseback riding and a love for animals were Kiersten Clavier’s greatest passions. She and her twin sister, Crystal Clavier, grew up riding horses on their family’s 70-acre farm and often invited friends to join them. Together, the sisters rode 250 miles across the state on the Shore-To-Shore Trail with the Michigan Trail Riders Association.

Kiersten Clavier had a special place in her heart for the Exceptional Riders Program at the Equestrian Center of Bay Harbor. She frequently arrived early with a car full of her friends to help groom and prepare the therapeutic riding horses. Wearing a cowboy hat over her long brown hair and blue jeans, she led the horses while teaching people with disabilities to ride.

“She talked to the kids like they were little brothers or little sisters,” said Mary Lee, an Exceptional Riders Program instructor and Kiersten’s Ride participant. “She really made an effort to get to know them. It didn’t matter who they were, how little they were or if they were a big teenager, that’s how she greeted and treated them.”

The Clavier family continues to volunteer with the Exceptional Riders Program and donated one of their horses to the organization after Kiersten’s Clavier’s death.

During the first half-mile and last half-mile of Kiersten’s Ride, Kiersten Clavier’s horse, a white-and-chestnut paint horse named Eugene, will be riderless and led by her older sister, 20-year-old Stephanie Fuller.

“It’s to symbolize that she should be here to ride her horse,” Lisa Clavier said, adding that Kiersten Clavier purchased Eugene with her own money when she was 11 years old.

The case for suicide prevention

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds in the U.S., and approximately 4,600 people in this national age group take their lives each year, according to a 2010 report from the American Association of Suicidology.

There has been a 28 percent national increase in suicides committed by adults between the ages of 35 and 64 over the past decade, Lucido, the North Country Community Mental Health psychologist, said.

North Country Community Mental Health will set aside donations from Kiersten’s Ride specifically for local mental health awareness initiatives, Lucido said. The funds will help to further develop programming through a collaborative suicide prevention workgroup that is facilitated by the Human Services Coordinating Body of Charlevoix & Emmet Counties.

“I think it’s important for people to understand that it can be anybody,” said Gretchen Spedowske, a Charlevoix-Emmet Intermediate School District career and college readiness consultant who serves as a member of the suicide prevention workgroup. “Even if someone’s talking about it, take it seriously because you don’t know. Life is so important.”

Warning signs of suicide or risk factors include mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, substance abuse, previous suicide attempts, nonsuicidal self-injury, firearms in the household and low self-esteem, Lucido said.

“Getting to the help that is needed is most important,” he said. “Sometimes all someone needs is a little encouragement to help them get through a difficult time in their life. Be a support. Let them know moods are temporary states and are never permanent.”

The vision for Kiersten’s Ride

Lisa Clavier said she hopes Kiersten’s Ride will become an annual, weekend-long horseback-riding event.

“We’ve got to do something,” she said. “Every time I hear something like this I keep thinking, “What have I done to make it better?’ So this is my attempt at helping. I just want people to know that we’re trying to make a difference and help somebody.”

For more information about participation in Kiersten’s Ride or sponsorship, contact Lisa Clavier at [email protected]

Donations will be accepted at the event or may be mailed to the Clavier family directly: 04316 Cosier Road, East Jordan, MI 49727. Checks are payable to North Country Community Mental Health.

Visit North Country Community Mental Health’s website at For immediate professional assistance regarding suicide prevention, call your doctor, nearest emergency room, or the local emergency Third Level Crisis Line at (800) 442-7315.

A version of this story also appears in the Aug. 15 issue of The Charlevoix County News.

Check out more Northern Michigan events on the MyNorth Events Calendar!
—By Catie L’Heureux