BLAIR COUNTY, Pa (WTAJ)- Over 350 people across 28 teams walked the trail along Lakemont Park in honor of their loved that died by suicide. They also walked to bring awareness to the cause for the eleventh annual Out of the Darkness walk Sunday.
The Out of the Darkness experience is described as a journey of remembrance, hope, and support. It allows acknowledging the ways suicide and mental illness can affect our lives and our loved ones.
The event has raised nearly $25,000 for the cause. Teams had on their unique shirts in honor of their loved ones and wore a beaded necklace. The necklaces are called honor beads, and they represent the person who has been affected by suicide. There are nine colors to represent the relationships of loved ones.
Blair County’s walk also featured an array of first-timers to the cause. One of them is Karen’s Krew, led by her siblings, Missy Peters and David Bookhamer. Karen died by suicide earlier this year. Her siblings said they were glad to be surrounded by those who have felt the same way.
“I think it means a lot to everyone,” Peters said. “In retrospect, it’s something that we wish we would’ve been more in the preventive end of it instead of the awareness end of it. But it’s an important cause kind of late to the game, but glad to be joining.”
A team of 22 made up Karen’s Krew. Their shirts were orange and had the sun on them because that’s how they remembered her personality. They were excited to join the walk along with everyone.
“I think it will be good to see everyone and the commodity,” Peters said. “And just the community of people that needs to be together.”
First-timers to the Blair County walk were mother and daughter duo Kiersten McIntire and Joanne Delbiondo. They have been to multiple suicide walks before but came to Blair County to showcase their homemade video about suicide.
Their video called “Breaking the Silence” shows photos of their friends and family with an inspirational quote about suicide and living. The duo played the video right before the walk began.
“In light of the pandemic, we noticed there was more and more depression and problems with mental illness,” McIntire said. “My mom called me and said, ‘Hey, I want to do something, but I don’t know what to do,’ so her and I talked about it.”
The video has almost 800 views on YouTube. The duo says they feel good being able to make a difference and bring awareness to the cause.
“I think we’ll feel good just helping us know that we’re making a difference,” McIntire said.
“That was our whole purpose in all of this, and it makes me feel good that we’re out here doing it,” Delbiondo said.
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