On Saturday, September 29th the “Out of the Darkness Community Walk” to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention took place at Rowden Park in Lapeer. It was the culmination of Suicide Awareness month and it was certainly an event to remember. Over 400 people attended the 11th anniversary of this event.  ELGA Credit Union had over 50 people in attendance between employees, family and friends. ELGA raised over $2,000 and the event itself raised over $16,000 – a total that is still growing.

A Beautiful Day to Remember

It was a beautiful, sunny, and crisp day to walk in remembrance of survivors of suicide. Families gathered to honor those lost to the disease of depression. Rowden Park is a lovely park with paved paths, a bridge, and beautiful scenery. Some walked a mile while other walked further. Some just came to spend time surrounded by others who understand. It was an amazing time for the community to show support for others by offering donations, time, compassion and care to those affected by this dreadful disease. There was a fundraising auction and chances to win prizes.  Entertainment was provided by a singer/guitarist that serenaded us throughout the registration process. This set a mood for everything that followed.

After the walk, a lunch of hot dogs and chips was provided to the participants. This allowed people to mingle and absorb the deep meaning behind why this cause is of such importance today. It is alarming that the suicide rate has gone up an average of over 30% in the last decade and it is the first leading cause of death for people between the ages of 18-24.

Even though the walk began at 1:00pm, there were many folks that stayed later for a balloon release with messages for those who are lost but not forgotten.  The balloons were biodegradable so as to not harm the environment. Seeing the bright balloons against the blueness of the sky was cleansing to me in a strange way. Letting go is a vital part of grief and this symbolized it well.

Vicki’s Story

After losing my brother to suicide two years ago, I felt the need to spread the word and give hope and help to those suffering. A.F.S.P provides a hotline for those contemplating suicide and they also do so much more to benefit mental health issues and support to survivors. When I visited countless businesses in the community for donations and to share my brother’s story, I was sad to learn how many around us have had similar losses. I was astounded at how many of our ELGA team have been touched as well. This event is so special in how it offers the chance to meet, cry and share this one common issue.  It opens up the conversation about a difficult topic, a topic that has caused many to suffer in silence for so long.

Just the Beginning

It was a day of mixed emotions as so many were there in remembrance of a loved one lost. While some could not contain tears, others were expressing joy in memory of someone they love. It was an opportunity to share my experience with others and to listen to their experiences. A comradery with those that know the pain of this loss, the unique grief that gives us that bond, and the relationships built as we raised money for this worthy cause are all of the reasons that this is just the beginning of my work for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I am all in for next year and will continue to build on the relationships I have started with others who are struggling to make sense of this horrific epidemic.

 

Author: Vicki Blakemore
Solutions & Support Agent

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