The Orlando community came together to honor and remember their loved ones in the Out of the Darkness Walk Saturday, Feb. 5, at Lake Baldwin.
The 15th annual event, hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, is a journey of hope to heal the losses of the past and help prevent suicide from taking more lives.
All proceeds from the event benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to fund research, education, and survivor and awareness programs.
According to the foundation, suicide is currently the third leading cause of death among young people age 15 to 24. The highest overall rates of suicide are for adults age 40 to 59.
Jim Payne, news anchor from WESH 2, has helped to host the event every year with the help of the dedicated individuals from the foundation and local community members.
Payne says people who attend the walk usually fall into two different categories — people looking for something and people who have found something and want to share it.
“Some of us need answers to know if we are even asking the right questions, some of us need comfort, some of us need a boost, some inspiration, some kind words, someone to listen, to know that people care,” he says. “Others of us have wisdom that we are hoping to share, experiences that we know are helpful, things that work. Others of us are ready to listen, to let people know that we truly care.”
Vicki Dolan and Beth Hendren, of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, also spoke. Dolan lost her father in 2004 to suicide, and she wanted to do something to help herself and others heal.
That’s how the even began.
“I would like for all these beautiful people to know that they are not alone and there is hope for everybody,” she says. “You just look at the person next to you, and they’re feeling exactly how you’re feeling.”
Residents from across Central Florida walked the 2.6-mile scenic walk around Lake Baldwin individually and in teams. They carried signs, wore customized T-shirts, and displayed remembrances of their lost loved ones.
The organization also provided several activities to encourage hope and healing.
Memory signs were displayed throughout the walk as a memorial to those lost and as a reminder of why others fight to bring the issue of suicide out of the darkness and help those who may still be struggling.
In addition, the Butterfly Tree allowed participants to take a butterfly for themselves or to hang a butterfly from the tree. The Honor Beads allowed individuals to show their personal connection to the cause and identify others who understood through a color such as orange for the loss of a sibling or white for the loss of a child.
A raffle, silent auction, activities and live music by Matt Shenk was also part of the event.
In all, 161 teams raised more than $170,000 for the cause.
Participating organizations included Orlando Health, Target, University Behavioral Center and Hispanic Family Counseling Inc.
“Mental health and suicide prevention are more important than ever,” Payne says. “We are confident that with your help we can reach more people than ever before.”
HOW TO HELP
- Donations will continue to be accepted until March 31.
- Donations can be made here.
- For more information, click here.