Heather Palacios Recognized Ahead of 2022 Suicide Awareness Month

Heather Palacios’s organization Wondherful partnered with Motion Church to deliver 700+ trauma LifeBoxes to Uvalde, Texas.

By Bryan Boggiano

Each year, roughly 40,000 people die by suicide. About 6,000 of those deaths are veterans.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and is the leading cause of death for first responders, according to the CDC.

To help save lives, Coral Springs resident Heather Funk Palacios started the organization Wondherful to provide people struggling with mental illness, suicidal thoughts, or addiction with the resources they need to survive.

Incontro Italian Cuisine Steakhouse

Palacios feels a personal connection with those whom she seeks to help. Since she was eight years old, she battled thoughts of suicide.

Palacios attributes this to a mix of neural chemical imbalance, genetics, and circumstances out of her control.

But instead of focusing on her negative experiences and feelings, Palacios celebrates being a survivor for over 40 years.

“I [help others] because I know what it is like to want to die, and I want to help people who are in that same boat,” she said. 

Since 2011, Palacios has also been the wife of Church By The Glades executive pastor Raul Palacios and serves as a chaplain.

Her outreach work includes various public speaking events, podcasting, and providing services at hospitals, prisons, psychiatric facilities, halfway houses, and in homes across the country.

During COVID, Palacios said that the pandemic not only significantly disrupted her in-person outreach efforts. Despite that, people still reached out to her, asking for help.

That is when Palacios got the idea to “ship” her services out to those in need.

wondherful

Commissioner Shawn Cerra, Commissioner Nancy Metayer, Ricky Wolfer, Deborah Davis, Mayor Scott Brook, Heather Palacios, Commissioner Joy Carter, Vice Mayor Joshua Simmons [City of Coral Springs]

In November 2020, she recruited her friend, Julie, and the two began putting together care packages for people in need from Palacios’s living room.

From there, Wondherful was born.

The care packages, called Life Boxes, contain essential and extra items for people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds.

Each box includes a journal, pen, stress ball, bible, tissues, Chapstick, personal handwritten cards, a suicide lifeline card,  and a “Choose Life” bracelet. They also include a booklet on grieving, bible verses on grief, a small plush stuffed animal, and a packet of forget-me-not seeds to plant in honor of the victims.

Other items include puzzles, a coloring book with crayons for kids, and a paint-by-number coloring activity.

Before the pandemic, Palacios handed the boxes out on a relatively limited basis to people she saw in person, but their reach grew exponentially.

Within less than two years, the idea that started in Palacios’s living room spread to 46 states and 11 countries. She said that Wondherful has made and distributed almost 4,800 Life Boxes to psychiatrists, psychologists, military bases, schools, and three police precincts in Chicago.

“A Life Box is free to anyone, anywhere, going through any hard time so that they won’t give up,” Palacios said. “I’m not gonna turn anybody down because I want everybody to live.” 

These boxes have even helped in the aftermath of national tragedies, including the Highland Park shooting.

After the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, the demand was so large that Wondherful originally ran out of the 600 Life Boxes Palacios brought to the city.

Through online orders, they eventually shipped 117 more. Individual donations and sponsorships cover the costs of making and sending each Life Box.

While Palacios said she does not do her work for special recognition, she reports feeling a sense of healing when she hears back from Life Box recipients. One, in particular, came from someone who attempted suicide on their wrists. She said that the person had significant scarring, which they associated with death.

After they received the Life Box, they sent a picture with the “Choose Life” wristband on. Instead of associating their wrists with dying, Palacios said the person told her that they now associated their wrists with living and would never remove the band.

To recognize her contributions to the community and beyond, the Coral Springs City Commission honored Palacios with a proclamation declaring September 2022 as Suicide Awareness Month in Coral Springs.

Palacios accepted the proclamation alongside Deborah Davis, Broward County’s League of Women Voters Gun Safety Committee co-chair, and United Way of Broward County Program Coordinator Ricky Wolfer.

“I never aspired to have city politicians believe in me…[but] it means a lot,” she said.

Send Your News to Coral Springs #1 Award-Winning News Site Here.

Author Profile

Bryan Boggiano

Bryan Boggiano
A University of Florida journalism graduate, Bryan is pursuing his masters in geosciences at Florida International University. He has a strong interest in weather, entertainment, and journalism.

Mr Impact Broward County
Michael Bander
Just between Friends