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Why We Add an Extra Push-Up to the 22 Push-Up Challenge

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My journey to the 23rd pushup began on March 15, 2015, the day my soulmate, Steve Tarpinian, took his own life.

Steve was an extraordinary man and positively impacted so many lives in the sport of triathlon which he pioneered on Long Island. Although, one did not have to be an athlete for Steve to make a  lasting impression. The way he was able to make people feel good about themselves and his uncanny ability to make people believe they were the most important person in the world were unforgettable. His kind spirit and good nature was apparent to all who met him.

I did not want Steve to be forgotten so I wrote his memoir. In an attempt to try and have some good come out of such a tragic loss, I wanted to donate proceeds of the memoir to an
organization that promoted mental health and suicide awareness. I named Project 9 Line as the beneficiary of the book proceeds.

Project 9 Line is a Long Island non-profit organization of veterans helping other veterans
deal with depression and PTSD by providing outlets for them in the arts (writing, music, comedy etc.). Steve, being the Renaissance Man he was, would have loved that approach. It was through that organization I was introduced to Airborne Tri Team. Airborne Tri Team’s mission is to promote teamwork and endurance sports to help veterans

It is through Airborne Tri Team that I learned of the staggering statistic that an average of 20 veterans are killed by suicide every day. The #22pushup challenge is similar to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in its attempt to raise awareness of this plight of our veterans. Ron, the founder of Airborne Tri Team, was inspired by Steve’s life. Now, when the team participates in a triathlon, they will gather together when all of them have crossed the finish line and do 22 pushups to honor those who served.

Then, they will do the 23rd pushup in Steve’s memory.

a group of runner doing pushups

Steve was not a veteran, and although the paths that lead our veterans to suicide might be different than Steve’s, they shared the pain of hopelessness and they feared living more than they feared dying. The end results of suicide are the same — the tragic, sudden loss of a precious life and the loved ones that are left behind, feeling the terrible heartbreak of loss, with so many unanswered questions, wondering if they could have done something different to help their loved one.

I am humbled that Airborne Tri Team has chosen to honor Steve’s memory with the 23rd push-up. It is a privilege for me to join these veterans as they do their 22 push-ups to honor their fellow service men and women who have taken their own lives. The fact they add one for Steve after they finish a triathlon gives me purpose to continue to keep Steve’s legacy alive, and it gets me out of bed in the morning.

Follow this journey on Slipped Away.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Originally published: July 31, 2016
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