Pulver recalls knowing that she wanted to start a foundation shortly after her daughter’s suicide, but not what the foundation would do. It wasn’t until she began looking for help to deal with the tragedy that she realized where assistance was needed: “Therapists and social workers don’t have specific training to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or survivors of suicide,” she says. “That’s when I decided what this was going to be about.” With suicide rates climbing in non-traditional age groups, education is more important than ever, and little help exists for those dealing with the loss of a loved one, Pulver says. And the problem is not exclusively for survivors of suicide: Mental illness has such a stigma attached that those who need help are often ashamed to ask for it. “People need to look at it like cancer—another disease that can end in death,” she says. “There’s all sorts of help for the person who makes the suicide attempt, but there’s not a lot out there for the others. That’s what we do.”
Centegra Hospital soon heard about her foundation, and asked if they could partner with her. Centegra has a crisis program of the kind the foundation promotes, but between people not knowing it exists or not knowing where to look for help, it is very difficult for them to get anyone in need of assistance into their building. With the money raised by her foundation, Pulver has been able to help them pay for marketing this year and begin a few programs that would have otherwise been put off.
The “Hope Through Dance” Festival is the major event organized by Laura Twirls, and is a union of the passion of Laura’s life and the passion of her mother to increase awareness about the manner of her death. Last year, the event was a highly personal one. It marked the one-year anniversary of Laura’s passing and accordingly was made up primarily of tribute pieces, some of which had been choreographed by Laura herself. This year, Pulver is particularly excited to welcome a group of young girls in a dance-therapy program to perform at the Woodstock portion of the festival. “It gives them something to look forward to,” she says, “and hopefully it will help them to know that people want to see them dance.”
Pulver hopes, of course, that her foundation will be able to raise more and more money for Centegra and similar crisis programs, but knows she is fighting an uphill battle. “I’m hoping that this year people will just—if I can get one person to say the word ‘suicide’ out loud, I’ll be ecstatic,” Pulver says. (Erin Kelsey)
The festival performs at the Woodstock Opera House on September 9 at 8pm, and at the Ruth Page Center for Dance on September 10 at 8pm. $25. See lauratwirlsfoundation.org for details.