By Ren Clayton

ROGERS, Minn. (WCCO) — A nonprofit is raising mental health awareness for youth athletes here in Minnesota, inspired by a young hockey player gone too soon.

Friday was opening night of the high school hockey season. But it was about so much more than hockey.

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“We’ve been working with many organizations and trying to put this all together to raise awareness for something that’s very important to all of us,” said Olivia Wlasching, a Centennial High School hockey player and member of Sophie’s Squad.

The organization Sophie’s Squad took over the Roger’s ice rink for mental health awareness, in honor of it’s namesake, Sophie Weiland.

“It’s really incredible,” said Sophie’s sister, Rachel. “It’s crazy to see everyone here just supporting this cause, and her, and honoring her.”

Sophie, 14, was lost to suicide in July. Soon after, her hockey coach, Terry Hughes, founded Sophie’s Squad.

“I just want to make sure this doesn’t happen to another family,” he said.

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“There’s been a big outpouring of support for us,” said Sophie’s father, Henry. “I think a lot of that is, she was a really good kid. So many people were so shocked that this happened. A lot of people couldn’t believe that it happened to her. If it could happen to her, it could happen to anybody.”

The organization raises money to benefit youth through college-age athletes. Gabby Hughes plays hockey for University of Minnesota-Duluth.

“It’s huge in sports. You’re always putting yourself to super high standards and holding your standards super high for everyone around you. So having the support and knowledge that mental health is OK, and we’re here to support that is super important,” Hughes said.

Sophie’s family and some of her former teammates were on the ice together.

“She didn’t reach out to anybody. She didn’t tell anybody anything,” said Sophie’s mother, Aimee. “I just feel like it’s so important for people to know that people can talk about this, talk about issues, to help bring it out more into the open.”

Sophie’s Squad plans to have many more events throughout the hockey season and even into the summer.

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Ren Clayton