LOCK HAVEN — Dozens of Clinton County residents turned out over the weekend to highlight an important issue — suicide prevention.
The annual Clinton County Out of the Darkness Community Walk, organized by the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, was held Sept. 18 at Riverview Park in Lock Haven.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide.
A diverse group of people came out to show their support and march. Young children, adults, the elderly and veterans all wore beads that shared their story without the need for words.
Carolyn Shade, Event Coordinator, took a few moments to thank all of the volunteers and sponsors who helped make the walk possible. She specifically shouted out Avenue 209 and Dominos Pizza for featuring their promotions, as well as Walmart for donating water.
Local sponsors of the Clinton County Out of the Darkness Walk include Community Care Behavioral Health Organization, Center for Community Resources, BeSMART for Kids, Redmond’s Complete Comfort, Cara Montarsi State Farm, M&R Contracting, Miller Brothers Auto Sales, Nestlerode Contracting Company , Lock Haven EMS, VFW Benefits Center and the Mogish family.
As Shade welcomed everyone to begin their laps around the park, the crowd began marching along the designated path.
Messages of support and praise were chalked onto the floor such as “you are loved” and “you are worth my time.”
Once registered at the table, you had to go and find the pearls that best matched your reason for attending.
The meanings of the beads were:
— White – loss of a child
— Red – loss of spouse or partner
— Gold – loss of a relative
— Orange – loss of sibling
— Purple – loss of relative or friend
— Silver – loss of a first responder/military
— Green – a personal struggle or attempt
— Blue – Support suicide prevention
— Teal – A friend or family member of someone who struggles or has tried
— Rainbow – LGBTQA+ support, whether it’s you or a loved one
The purpose of the beads was to show your personal connection to the cause and to help identify others who have been or are going through the same situation as you.
The event hosted many different tables with information on services and resources for those suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts as well as a basket draw.
Roads to Peace had a table held by Cheyenne Brickley, SA/DV Prevention Education and Volunteer Coordinator, with various pamphlets and a tribute to Thomas MacMillen. The board featured MacMillen’s photograph with his life story quoted by Sean MacMillen, “My boyfriend taught me to go out and live life to the fullest.”
The Community Resource Center had a table to publicize its crisis hotline. They have a 24/7 hotline available for crisis advice. They also offered other resources for those such as BeSMART for Kids.
The Meadows, Community Care and VA also had booths to raise awareness about suicide prevention, offering their resources to those who might need help.
The main event was preceded by guest speakers Calib Shade and Amber Seasholtz who each shared their personal struggles and stories.
Calib opened up about his own battle with suicidal thoughts and told the crowd that “No one should have to be alone in this battle with yourself.”
Amber recounted in detail the day her husband Brennan lost his battle with depression and how she carried on despite her grief.
” I had no choice. Brennan left me two amazing young men to raise and I needed to be strong for them even when I didn’t want to be. she says. “Without them and the support of our family and friends, I couldn’t have made it. Being able to share our story and talk to others who have mental health issues or who have experienced a loss similar to ours helps.
She ended her speech with the hopeful words, “It’s definitely OK to not be OK.”
Another speaker has joined the lineup. Katy Gee – a survivor of a suicide attempt – shared with the group the poetry she had written to help her deal with her own struggles.
Katy wrote a heartbreaking poem titled, “A whisper and an echo.” The poem detailed Katy’s struggle with her mental health.
“Stand by the Echo of Your Loved Ones” she said after reading her speech, “and you will be able to push back the dark thoughts and whispers that come to mind.”
Some present spoke of the importance of these walks for everyone, regardless of age, gender or anything else.
“These walks are really important for all generations,” said Amanda Houseknecht. “All walks of life come together to support each other and show people they care. They are not alone in their struggles.
Amanda was at the event to take pictures and walk in honor of her son’s best friend, Derrick Horne, a soldier who lost his life a few years ago.
There were fundraising groups at the event, as well as unofficial teams that came together to show their support.
One of these unofficial teams was part of the community services group.
“We don’t always have the chance to take all the girls out together” said Amber Bair. “But it was the perfect event to come out and support.”
Although the total donation amount won’t be known for a few weeks, by the end of the event, the Clinton County Walk Out of Darkness was on track to reach $15,000.
To learn more about the AFSP and its latest annual report, join the conversation on suicide prevention by following the AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.