January 17, 2017
“If I told you I’m walking 26 miles through the night from Fairfax, Virginia to Washington, D.C. to end the stigma surrounding suicide, would you support me?”
We saw this quote on a brochure for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk at an AFSP Survivor’s Conference in Salem, MA, in 2001. We were attending this conference because in November, 2000, our son, Corey, died by suicide. Corey was a bright, athletic, caring and sensitive boy of 17 who probably suffered from undiagnosed and untreated mental health conditions. We had been struggling with our grief and saw the upcoming Overnight Walk as an endeavor that might allow us to channel this pain into having a meaningful and positive impact.
These walks have proven to be a valuable and healing tool for us. We have met many wonderful people who are also survivors of this sort of tragedy and others who are dealing with their own mental health conditions. Being able to walk with these individuals and share our stories with each other has meant so much to us. It is a special community unto itself. For many people who have lost someone to suicide, this is their first chance to talk about their loved one in a safe environment with people who truly understand.
The San Diego Overnight Walk will be our 15th walk, and we are so thankful for our faithful supporters who have contributed in excess of $180,000 to the cause over the years. The fundraising has been rewarding and has given us a chance to reconnect with friends.
People have asked what our favorite experiences associated with the Overnight Walks are. Some would include:
- Beginning the walk with thousands of others, all dedicated to the same cause
- Sharing memories with others while walking
- Hearing the audible support from cheering stations along the route
- Feeling the support of many individuals in the host city
- Joining other walkers for midnight meals that provide more opportunity for sharing
- Experiencing points of interest along the route throughout the night
- Seeing the way people commemorate their loved ones by pictures or memorabilia
- Watching members of the military walk in full gear through the night in honor of their comrades
- Feeling the incredible support and dedication of the walker coaches and crew
- Viewing the luminaria lighting the way to the finish line
- Having a triumphant feeling of accomplishment
An important additional benefit for us has been training for the Walks. Not only has it been a huge help in dealing with our grief, but it has also improved our physical well-being and lifestyle. We continue to walk daily, even in the “off-season.”
It is our sincere hope that through our combined efforts, no other family will have to endure such pain of losing a loved one to suicide. Suicide has become a national health crisis, and it is time to do something bold. If you are considering participating in an Overnight Walk, we urge you to register now. You will be doing something positive to end stigma and bring suicide prevention “Out of the Darkness.”
Started in 2002 as a 26 mile walk from Fairfax, VA to Washington, D.C., the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk has become AFSP’s flagship fundraising event. Now taking place in two different cities each year, the 2017 Overnights will unite thousands from across the world to walk 16-18 miles, from dusk till dawn, to stop suicide.
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