Teams, sponsors sought for Out of the Darkness suicide prevention walk

Walkers release balloons before participating in the second annual Out of the Darkness community walk for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at Crosslin Park in this September 2018 file photo. (Bonnie Vculek / Enid News & Eagle)

ENID, Okla. — Teams, individual participants and sponsors are sought for the 2019 Out of the Darkness suicide prevention and awareness walk, set for Oct. 4 in downtown Enid.

The walk will start at the Garfield County Court House lawn, with registration at 5:30 p.m. and the walk at 6:30.

According to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), which is the host organization for the walk, participants "join the effort with hundreds of thousands of people to raise awareness and funds ... to invest in new research, create educational programs, advocate for public policy, and support survivors of suicide loss."

AFSP has set a goal to reduce the annual suicide rate by 20% by 2025, according to their website.

Kelly Webster, organizer of the Enid event, said its purpose is to raise awareness, remember suicide victims, support survivors and raise funds for AFSP.

For Oklahomans ages 15 to 34, suicide is the second-leading cause of death, according to Oklahoma Department of Human Services, and the state has the eighth-highest suicide rate in the nation.

Despite its prevalence, Webster said many in the community still don't think much about suicide risk, or that it can happen to their family. Raising that level of awareness has become a personal mission for Webster, since his son Elijah died by suicide in March 2016, the day before his 19th birthday.

"Obviously, we want to raise funds to help prevent suicide, but we also want to bring awareness to the community," Webster said. "Unfortunately, I don't think everybody knows what kind of an issue suicide is in the community. I think back to before I had to know about it, and I think about how much I thought about it — and, I didn't."

Registration is open now, for teams and individual participants, at afsp.org/enid. Donations also are accepted at that site.

Individuals who raise at least $150 will receive a free event T-shirt. The shirts also will be for sale for $15. It is free to register for the event, and fundraising is not required.

Webster said organizers also are looking for sponsors to help cover the cost of the event and raise its visibility. Sponsors who donate $250 or more by Sept. 15 will be on the event T-shirt and promotional materials.

For anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide, Webster also hosts the Enid Survivor of Suicide Loss Support Group, the second and fourth Mondays of each month, 6:30 p.m., at The Commons, 3706 King.

For information, call (580) 541-1708 or email kwebster5413@gmail.com.

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Neal is health, military affairs and religion reporter and columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @jamesnealwriter, and online at jamesrneal.com.
Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for James? Send an email to jneal@enidnews.com.

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