Photo courtesy of Out of the Darkness.
1012 Out of the Darkness Walk
Participants walk through Heardmont Parkin last year’s Out of Darkness Community Walk.
After their son Matt took his life in 2006, Meadow Brook residents Alan and Cindi Weeks got involved in the first annual Out of the Darkness Walk at Heardmont Park. Last year, the Weeks helped the event raise more than $130,000 from a turnout of 1,300 walkers.
“The walk helps comfort hurting hearts, but it also raises money for research and awareness about depression and suicide,” said Alan Weeks.
Out of 250 walks nationwide, Birmingham’s walk always places in the top five in money raised. These proceeds benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) by funding research, education and support programs both locally and nationally. Out of the Darkness organizers said each year more than 34,000 people commit suicide, which averages out to one death every 15 minutes.
“This walk isn’t just about those directly affected by suicide. We also encourage friends of the cause to come out as well,” Alan said.
Many programs have started because of the local walk, including an initiative to show the “More than Sad” DVD in Alabama’s high schools. This Out of the Darkness organizers are beginning a pilot program in Jefferson County Schools to train counselors on depression and suicide.
“In my mind, we are very far behind in understanding depression and mental illnesses. I want to raise awareness that this is a disease just like physical illnesses,” Cindi Weeks said.
Out of the Darkness has also started an outreach program for those directly affected by suicide. The program allows loved ones to speak to someone over the phone or through a house call. It helps those affected understand they are not alone and be a comfort for someone dealing with the loss of a loved one.
This year’s walk takes place on Sunday, November 4 at Heardmont Park and begins at 2:30 p.m. Registration is available for walkers the day of the event.
Participants will walk to honor a loved one, to support the cause, or to raise awareness. The public is encouraged to attend and there will be accommodations for wheelchairs, strollers and pets on a leash.
Mike Latham and Sean Bunn will provide music, and a bagpiper will play to commence the walk. There will even be a butterfly release after the walk if weather permits.
“We want everyone to come, to celebrate life, to remember a life and raise awareness for this cause,” Cindi said.
For more information about Out of the Darkness Community Walk and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, visit afsp.org/alabama or outofthedarkness.org. For more information about the suicide outreach program, call 382-5402.