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story.lead_photo.caption Lance Loyd, of Millersburg, puts a finishing shine on his 1964 Chevy Impala Super Sport. His family attends Drive to Survive each year, he said. Photo by Helen Wilbers / Fulton Sun.

Hot rods and suicide awareness might seem like an odd pairing.

The organizers of the annual Drive to Survive event think the partnership works, they said Saturday. Each year, the Fulton-based car show raises money and awareness for the Greater Mid-Missouri Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

"It gets (the) men (who participate) acknowledging that mental health is an important issue," Becca Pamperl, an event volunteer and AFSP member said.

Pamperl lost a brother to suicide in 2003 and participated in her first Out of the Darkness Walk — another AFSP event — in 2013.

"I felt less alone," she said. "I started coming to AFSP meetings, and they took me in. The rest is history."

She founded the Columbia Out of the Darkness Walk and each year visits politicians in Missouri and Washington, D.C., to lobby for mental health-related legislation.

She and Beth Hendren, an AFSP board member and advocate, are heading to D.C. this week to "Storm the Hill." It'll be Hendren's first time. The lawmakers tend to be receptive, Pamperl said.

"(Mental health) is a bipartisan issue," Hendren said.

One recent success for AFSP was the passage of a bill establishing a national, three-digit suicide hotline.

"It'll be easy to remember," Hendren said. "What a lot of people don't realize is that currently, each state has its own hotline — this will be nationwide."

Hendren became invested in the cause after losing her son to suicide five years ago. She, too, found her community while participating in an Out of the Darkness Walk.

"For once, people weren't looking at me like they didn't know what to say to me," she said.

Some car show participants also have close connections to the issue of mental health.

"My neighbor and close friend lost a son," Lance Loyd, of Millersburg, said while polishing his 1964 Chevy Impala Super Sport. "No matter what we have on the calendar, my family and I make this event."

He said he tries to be open about mental health with his friends and children.

"(Suicide) is a real danger and a real problem," he said. "We talk about the importance of having an open line of communication."

To learn more about AFSP, visit If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or a mental health crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Behavioral Health Crisis Hotline at 1-800-833-2064.

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