LATHROP – A Lathrop family’s tragedy has metamorphosed into a powerful grassroots effort that has now become a catalyst for awareness of the many issues affecting the mentally ill.
Three years after the tragic and untimely death of Jeremy Lum, the 28-year-old UC Berkeley graduate who was bipolar, the young man’s family and host of friends and supporters are once again retracing the barefoot walk he took following his release from the San Joaquin County Jail that led to his death by drowning at the San Joaquin River that runs just behind the facility where he was kept overnight. He was arrested the night before on charges of public intoxication.
“In reality, he was suffering from a bipolar episode, complete with hallucination,” according to justiceforjeremy.org which is the official group that was formed as a result of the tragedy.
On Saturday, Sept. 10, starting at 9 a.m., the event that is now being called the Memorial March & Mental Health Awareness Festival will kick off with the third annual Memorial March where participants will gather at the county Jail in French Camp for the 6.5-mile-walk to the Valverde Park on Fifth Street in Lathrop where the Mental Health Awareness portion of the day’s events will take place from noon until 6 p.m. In addition to the featured speakers who will provide information about mental health and related issues, there will be a barbecue lunch, live music, and various entertainment. Visitors are asked to bring lawn chairs.
At the first memorial walk held shortly after Jeremy Lum’s tragic death, his grieving father Jerry Lum, said the march was being held to “complete the walk (his son) could not finish.”
A member of one of Lathrop’s business owners and philanthropists, Jerry Lum was a former chairman of the Lathrop Municipal Advisory Council, the precursor to the Lathrop City Council. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago as a philosophy major. His son also majored in philosophy at UC Berkeley.
Jeremy’s aunt, Connie Lum Perez, who has been at the forefront of the effort to raise public awareness to the issues surrounding mental health, particularly felt the loss of her beloved nephew. The two shared the same birth date. Without fail, the close-knit family always gathered together every year to celebrate that happy moment. That annual golden moment will never be the same for Lum Perez.
Those who are planning to join the walk and would like transportation to the meeting place at the county jail can go to Valverde Park at 8 a.m. in the parking lot and look for the JFJ sign. Anyone who will need to retrieve their cars will also be provided with a ride back to French Camp after the walk. Those who are joining the walk are advised to wear comfortable shoes and clothing. Water will be provided to the walkers along the route.
For more details about the 2011 Justice for Jeremy Memorial March & Mental Health Awareness Festival, visit justiceforjeremy.org or visit the Facebook page for Justice for Jeremy.
The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department is located at 7000 Michael Canlis Way in French Camp, off Manthey Road.