TAMPA, Fla. - It's an alarming statistic. On average, 22 U.S. veterans commit suicide every single day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The organization, 22Kill, wants to change that.
The non-profit group is raising awareness about the suicide epidemic through the #22PushupChallenge, which is currently sweeping social media, and by helping to raise funds for programs that support the mental health and welfare of veterans and their families.
The idea of the challenge is to do 22 pushups for 22 days in honor of the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day.
Awareness is spread through videos and photos of the pushup challenge which are uploaded to social media and then through tagging someone to take the baton and continue the challenge. The photos or videos should be uploaded with the number of pushups performed along with the hashtag "#22KILL." The organization hopes to reach 22 million pushups done. As of Friday night, the totall was more than 8 million.
The 22 Pushup Challenge began as a local fundraiser in Dallas, but quickly gained momentum. "This has really been a huge deal for us," said Jacob Schick, executive director of 22Kill and a Marine veteran who was wounded in combat in Iraq. "The awareness alone, it's been really awesome," he said.
Some of the people who have taken the challenge include U.S. Olympic swimmer and gold medalist Simone Manuel, as well as actors Kevin Bacon, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Kevin Hart, and Chris Pratt.
The Dallas-based charity organization calls itself "22Kill" because veterans are "killed by suicide" every day. If the name of the organization is striking, it's supposed to be. "The name '22KILL' is meant to grab people’s attention. Suicide prevention is a very difficult task to undertake, especially when the general public is unaware of the issue in the first place," the organization said on its website.
The 22Kill website collects donations for mental health programs for veterans but also offers a place for people to help by becoming a Veteran's Advocate or "battle buddy," by wearing the "Honor Ring," worn on the index finger, or trigger finger. Veteran's Advocates can also make themselves available by phone for a veteran who needs to talk.
"We solely focus on sponsoring and supporting warriors getting mental health treatment," said Schick. "The only thing worse than suffering is suffering alone," he said.
FOX 13 anchors and reporters took the challenge and we have challenged the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Rays and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Here's the Rowdies!