FALCONER - Area residents who have lost a loved one to suicide are finding comfort by participating in an annual walk that aims to build awareness about prevention and mental health.
The second annual Out Of Darkness walk is set for Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Falconer Central School track, 2 East Ave. in Falconer. Check-in begins at 9 a.m., and there is no registration fee to participate. There is also no requirement on how far participants walk, rather the goal is to get people talking and offering support to each other.
Following the walk, participants can opt to join in on a balloon launch, which will allow guests to write a name or message before sending it on its way. The event will also include drawings and a hot dog sale. There will be activities for children, such as face painting and more.
Area residents are pictured at Falconer Central School during the first annual Out Of Darkness walk.
According to Jann Ball, director of Compeer, the funds raised during the walk will benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which will also help support local programs and services offered by Compeer and Chautauqua Tapestry.
"Chautauqua Tapestry is a government-sponsored grant that the county has to bring collaborative efforts through agencies and families receiving mental health support," Ball said. "It has many community participants and youth and family serving agencies. And, one of the areas we identified that we needed to work together on was suicide awareness, education and prevention."
The identification led to bringing the Out Of Darkness walk to area residents, and in its first year the event was well-received.
"We discovered a really overwhelming first-year event with great support and participation," Ball said. " The walk gave them an opportunity to do something proactive and meaningful, and the chance to tell the stories that people don't share because of the stigma of suicide."
Via the AFSP, www.afsp.org, the funds raised during the walk will be utilized for research, educational programs and awareness building.
"The (AFSP) has a wonderful survivor component, which host special programs for people who have suffered the loss of someone to suicide - it's a great support network," Ball said.
For more information, call 487-2956, 800-887-7337, visit www.stel.org/compeer or search for "Compeer Chautauqua" on Facebook.
After having a close friend named John commit suicide, Tina Hetrick, of West Ellicott, formed a group of nearly 20, under the name Team John, to walk to remember him.
In addition to walking each year, the group raises funds to donate via www.afsp.donordrive.com.
According to Hetrick, she found the event on Facebook after John, a family friend, committed suicide. And, because she is still close friends with John's brother and sister-in-law, she felt she had to do something in his honor.
"This summer we had a very close friend of our family commit suicide," Hetrick said. "John was a wonderful guy, and a very good friend. So, we wanted to do something to celebrate his life, but also something that would bring awareness to suicide. I thought the walk would be a great way to raise money that might help somebody else going through this, and a nice way to honor him."
For more information, search for "Jamestown Out Of Darkness Walk" on Facebook.