Last year around this time Tacoma hosted its first ever Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide prevention and it’s coming back again this year to Wright Park on Oct. 8. Registrations are being accepted online until noon on Oct. 7 at tinyurl.com/j6omusk (www.outofthedarkness.org). Anyone who would like to participate can also register in person at the Walk from the time check-in begins at 9 a.m. until the Walk starts at 10 a.m. Walk donations are accepted until Dec. 31 for those who may want to donate or support a friend or relative who will be participating in the Walk. This year’s fundraising goal set at $35,000.
While there is no cost to participate, when you walk in the Out of the Darkness Walk you join the effort with hundreds of thousands of people to raise awareness and funds that allow the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to invest in new research, create educational programs, advocate for public policy and support survivors of suicide loss. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is the nation's largest non-profit dedicated to lowering the rates of suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquarted in New York, AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states. Thanks to generous walkers and donors, AFSP has been able to set a goal to reduce the annual suicide rate 20 percent by 2025.
Jesse Pasquan is a board member of the AFSP Washington State chapter and committee chair of Tacoma’s Out of the Darkness Walk. He is also Student Voice Representative at the Washington State College Campus Cohort Suicide Prevention Program and a Washington Social Media Ambassador at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Pasquan said that last year’s inaugural walk went so well that it’s becoming an annual event, having exceeded the fundraising goal in 2015 by $4,000. He and a committee of six volunteers plan Tacoma’s walk.
“Two of them were on the committee last year, and the others are volunteers that reached out last year and wanted to be more involved,” he said.
The committee has a lot planned for this year’s Walk. The guest speaker will be Leilani Walker, one of the Tacoma Walk committee members. A firefighter and currently in school with plans to go to Vanderbilt University to become a cardiac surgeon, Walker will talk about how suicide has affected her life in various ways.
The “bead ceremony” is a particularly important part of the Walk in which registered walkers are given a chance to talk about their loss. “This is probably my favorite part of the opening ceremony,” Pasquan said, “seeing everyone in the crowd raising their beads in support of someone talking.”
Food to fuel up on will be available and a yoga instructor from Good Karma Center for Joy in Tacoma will be there to help walkers warm up with some light yoga poses and stretching before the Walk commences.
Numerous resources will be available at the Walk:
Sponsors this year include Group Health, DaVita Healthcare Partners, Northwest Stage and Minuteman Press.