Out of the Darkness Walk set to return to Veteran’s Park Nov. 5

Published 2:57 pm Monday, October 30, 2023

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By REBECCA BROOKS | Special to the Reporter

HOOVER – With a goal of raising $130,000 in donations, Hoover’s suicide prevention Out of the Darkness Walk is set to take place on Sunday, Nov. 5 in Veterans Park off of Valleydale Road.

The Out of the Darkness Walk, organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, centers around bringing awareness to suicide prevention, and acknowledging the impact mental health has had on community walkers. ASFP began the walks across the nation in 2004, with Birmingham joining the initiative in 2005.

“(Donation proceeds go to) fund research for suicide prevention, create and distribute education programs, advocate for public policy and support survivors of suicide loss,” Out of the Darkness Walk Chair Marissa Grayson said.

Check in for the walk begins at 1 p.m. The walk itself will begin at 2:30 p.m. and the event is set to end around 4 p.m. The walk trail is about a mile long, but will be accompanied with free fruit, water and local food trucks at the park who will be donating a portion of the proceeds to ASFP.

Additionally, there will be several nonprofits tabled at the event. Those in attendance will be the Veterans Administration, The National Alliance on Mental Illness Shelby, Justin Weathers Foundation, Oasis Counseling for Women and Children, Girls on the Run, Alabama Head Injury Foundation, ASPARC, PIRC, Children’s of Alabama, PFLAG, Addiction Prevention Coalition, Crisis Center, Community Grief Support and the Magic City Acceptance Center.

Amber Henderson, a member of the Board of Directors for the Alabama Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and annual walker shared the power of this movement across the nation.

“AFSP is the largest private funder of suicide prevention research in the country,” Henderson said. “In September of this year, the Alabama chapter presented educational programs to middle schools, high schools, colleges, a career center, a church and a medical center, reaching 3,600 individuals in the state. Each year volunteers visit the state and federal legislatures to advocate for better mental health care and suicide prevention initiatives, such as the 988 hotline and funding for it.”

The walk additionally provides several areas in the park for people to share their messages of hope and memories of loved ones they’ve lost to suicide. For a donation of $50, ASFP will also create a memorial sign in honor of the loved one you walk for. For Henderson, the walk is also deeply personal.

“I lost my brother, Chad, to suicide in 2005,” Henderson said. “He was only 21. He was funny and kind and generous. His friends still join my family each year to participate in the walk and honor his memory. (The walk is a) safe space to share their own stories of their connection to the cause.”

As of Oct. 24, the walk has already raised $56,487, with more than 500 people registered for the event. The expected attendance for the event is 1,000 people and any volunteers are welcome to visit AFSP.org/Birmingham or email Walk Chair Melissa Grayson at marissa.grayson@gmail.com to learn more.

This year, NAMI also invited Shelby County School students to participate in The Art of Kindness, an art contest where students were encouraged to submit artwork that centered around the theme of kindness for the event.

Those who are struggling with or know someone struggling with mental health are may call or text 988 to connect with a trained counselor, available 24/7, for free help.