The Out of the Darkness Community Walk, sponsored by the Troy Regional Medical Center, raised over $28,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) on Sunday, according to Amy Minor, the walk chairman.
Out of the Darkness Community Walks are national events promoting awareness for suicide prevention and raising money for the AFSP. The AFSP is “dedicated to preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide,” the website said.
The walk, held at the Troy University track, attracted over 500 walkers and began with the presentation of colors, pledge of allegiance, national anthem and a prayer. Participants were then invited to begin walking.
While rounding the track, participants could listen to Johnny Barron and Friends play live music, socialize with other walkers and visit stations set up around the track.
Some of the stations were set up to memorialize victims of suicide. Trojan Outreach offered paper stars on which participants could write the names of passed family or friends. The stars were then hung together on a black background.
Other stations were dedicated to promoting other organizations like Journey Detox, the Pilot Club of Troy or the Troy University Counseling Center, all of which stressed the importance of seeking help rather than turning to other means of coping, such as suicide, alcoholism or substance abuse.
Many participants came as a part of a team or group, together recognizing a friend or relative. Some wore team shirts displaying a victims’ names. Many others wore shirts displaying their groups, such as members of the Troy football team, the Alpha Delta Pi sorority and the FarmHouse Fraternity.
The event, a solemn reminder of a large problem, ultimately seemed to become a celebration of the memory of those lost to suicide.
Minor said the event is meant to generate hope for those who are struggling.
“We’re here to honor the taken,” she said in her closing statements. “We’re here to honor those people and to make a difference for someone else.”
Josh Johnson, WSFA’s chief meteorologist, spoke during the closing ceremonies about losing his brother.
Johnson’s brother lost his life in 2015 due to an overdose on heroin after becoming addicted to prescription pain medication, and Johnson lamented the fact that he did not have more time with him.
He encouraged others to show love for those around them, even if that love is tough and truthful to someone struggling with addiction or depression.
“We all have someone in our life that we’d give anything to have here with us today, but they’re not,” he said. “And I think it’s on us—it’s incumbent on us to live our lives in a way, to give our lives in a way, to sacrifice for others, to tell the truth to others, to be a shining light of love for others, in the memory of those that we’ve lost.”
The conclusion of the walk was a butterfly release, memorializing those lost. Butterflies, explained Minor, are only there for a moment, and then they are gone, but we are still thankful to have seen them.