CHICAGO — A local mother is on a mission to raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention.

Jamal Clay was a helper who loved to do volunteer work.

Three years ago Saturday, he died by suicide at 19 years old.

His mother, Rafiah Maxie-Cole, said weeks later she went into his room and saw his show.

It gave her the idea to start Soul Survivors of Chicago.

“I said to myself, wouldn’t it be great if I could take Jamal’s shoe, sanitize it and clean it and put his name in it and gift it to someone with the understanding to walk in my son’s shoe,” Maxie-Cole said.

She’s received nearly a hundred pairs of shoes from people all over.

Many of them are carrying the stories of loved ones who died by suicide.

She’s working with other organizations to donate them.

At the launch of the Walk In Purpose Project on Saturday at The Quarry in South Shore, Maxie-Cole presented a pair of her own son’s shoes to another teen facing mental health challenges.

“I think about those persons tonight that struggle or might have struggled to know that we are here and we want to be a part of a connection because we want you to live and we want you to survive,” she said.

Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported suicide rates among Black youth increased significantly from 2018 to 2021.

Maxie-Cole said her son was impacted by the pandemic and had experienced bullying and racial profiling.

His death came just days after police murdered George Floyd.

It was devastating not only for Jamal’s immediate family, but for all of the young people who were his friends.

“I don’t want anyone to ever face this feeling of losing someone in this manner,” Maxie-Cole said.

Through Soul Survivors, she said her son’s spirit lives on as she is now tied to walking with a new purpose to silence stigma and promote mental health and wellness.

“I feel this passion in my bones and I won’t stop and grateful for the support that we have,” she said.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of self-harm, seek help. The 988 suicide and crisis lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress.