The event is held in two different locations each year. This year's was San Francisco and New York, and as I'm located in Philadelphia (for those who don't know) I chose NY. I had to raise a minimum of $1000 to participate, as every walker does. I managed $1500, which is the most I've raised in three years of doing this event. Woo hoo! Thank you everyone!
The event is unlike any other I've participated in. The most obvious reason being, there are no survivors of suicide. There are those who have attempted and survived. There are family and friends who survive someone that has died by suicide. But by the nature of what suicide is, there is nobody who has fully experienced it and lived. Unlike walks for various types of cancer, heart disease, and other illness, there are literally no survivors walking. Not a small number, not one. Zero. And because of this, the event has a feel different than any other (and I've done numerous types of walks and events for a wide variety of charity). At once, there's both a feeling of hope, in the the strides that we're making in suicide prevention, in spreading awareness and fighting the stigma, in those who continue to beat their own battle every day that they are still alive, and a feeling of incredible sadness and loss for those who have lost the battle. There is an undeniable level of respect for each and every person walking, volunteering, and supporting the event. Each of these people have stood up, acknowledged the importance of the cause, and fraught against the stigma of mental health and suicide. Walkers wear different colored beads to symbolize their specific reason for walking. Based on the color of their beads, they are openly saying, I lost my sibling. I lost my friend. I have friends who struggle. I struggle myself. There was a man wearing two sets of gold beads. He had lost both parents to suicide, a year apart, and the walk was taking place on the anniversary of his father's death. It is especially heart-wrenching for me to see those who wear white beads. These people have lost a child. We wear shirts with the cause written prominently across the front. On the back, people write the names of loved ones who struggle and and who have been lost. Many people have attached pictures of those that they walk for. There is no hiding. There is no shame. There is no fear. There is no stigma. As it should be. Everywhere. Always. But we are not in a society that allows this, at least not at this time. And yet here, we can walk openly, talking about mental health and suicide, acknowledging each others' losses and struggles, but also with the power to spread the message.
Five minutes after leaving the opening ceremonies, probably three tenths of a mile into a 17 mile walk, the skies opened up. I mean poured. Practically monsooned. Last year in Boston, it poured for probably the last 5 miles near the end of the walk. This year, we barely made it out of the starting gates. Our socks were soaked. Shoes were soaked. Everything and everyone was soaked. It was that kind of blinding rain where you just put one foot in front of the other and hope both don't land in a puddle up to your shin. There was absolutely no escaping it. And yet we kept on walking. In fact, we probably walked faster, as if trying to out-smart the rain (no running allowed in the Overnight). Luckily, it did not last five miles. It may have lasted a mile. And then, the weather was perfect. Barely hazy, cooled down enough to be less muggy, but comfortable. For the next 16 miles.
|Opening Ceremonies at the Intrepid|
|My impromptu walk team, just past mile 8 in Brooklyn|
|My boyfriend and I at Opening C|
|17 miles later|