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Snowboard Event Raises Support for Suicide Awareness
Organizers encouraging competitors of Nate Chute Classic to gather funds through crowdsourcing
Competitors line up to compete in last year’s Nate Chute Classic snowboarder competition. - Photo courtesy Whitefish Mountain Resort
Nate Chute was a good-natured, well-liked young man who loved snowboarding. When he wasn’t working at Stumptown Snowboards in downtown Whitefish, he was up at Big Mountain helping with the youth team.

When he committed suicide the summer after graduating from high school in 1999, with a bright future and college plans ahead of him, it rocked his family and friends.

“It was totally unexpected. We didn’t see it coming. None of his friends saw it coming,” his father Terry said. “There were not outward signs. It hit everybody really hard.”

The sudden, tragic death of Nate Chute has become intertwined with an epidemic plaguing Montana, a state that consistently ranks in the top five for suicide rates.

The number of suicides has ranged from 225 to 230 each year, and preliminary data shows last year hit 230 yet again, according to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services.

In the past decade, suicide was the second leading cause of death for ages 10-14, adolescents 15-24, and adults 25-34. From 2000 to 2007, Flathead County had the third-highest number of suicide deaths of all counties in Montana, and ranked above the 80th percentile nationally, with 21.8 suicide deaths per 100,000 people compared to 19.6 for Montana and 10.9 for the nation.

After their son’s death, Terry and Jane Chute became devoted to trying to prevent other families from going through the same heart-breaking experience. With the help of Nate’s friends, the Chutes established the Nate Chute Foundation, a nonprofit organization with the goal of raising funds for suicide awareness and prevention services aimed at kids. Among other things, the NC Foundation supports the Whitefish High School Student Assistance Program, which provides trained guidance counselors who can be a resource for students who need one. The counselors help kids develop life skills and problem solving skills as a way to cope with life’s crises. A similar program is launching in Columbia Falls.

“One guidance counselor told me a year ago, it’s changing the culture in the school,” Terry Chute said. “We really see this expanding, hopefully countywide.”

To raise funds for the NC Foundation and area resources, Whitefish Mountain Resort is hosting the 15th annual Nate Chute Classic, a snowboarder competition that raises funds for the NC Foundation. A cash prize of nearly $4,000 is up for grabs in the banked slalom and boardercross event, slated for March 15-16.

The event usually attracts upwards of 130 competitors, who race through a course consisting of jumps, banks, rollers and traffic. The top two riders advance to next round and each rider has at least two chances before being eliminated.

This year the NC Foundation is asking competitors to get involved long before the much-anticipated weekend. Using Crowdrise, a website designed for nonprofits and specifically focused on events like the NY Marathon, the NC Foundation hopes to raise $6,000.

Jason Forrest with the NC Foundation said he hopes competitors will raise sponsorship funds.

“This is bigger than a snowboarding event,” he said. “If we can engage just 20 out of our 130 annual competitors to each raise $300, we’ll have met our goal of $6,000 through this particular fundraiser.”

Nate Chute - Courtesy photo

Forrest said organizers are offering a reimbursed entry fee to each competitor who raises $300 or more prior to the event.

“We would be thrilled if more competitors joined us in raising funds and helped us exceed our fundraising goal,” he said.

For Terry and Jane Chute, along with Nate’s friends and his community, the event is a memorial that hopefully raises awareness and rallies support for an important issue.

“It’s not a comfortable topic to talk about. It’s usually not on the radar screen. Before my son took his own life, it had never even entered my brain as a possibility,” Terry Chute said.

“We continue to believe small sums of money put in the right places can make a differences in people’s lives. That’s what we’re continuing to be about.”

For more information about the NC Foundation, visit www.natechutefoundation.org.
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