“we’ll keep walking”

By Erin GillinghamOctober 27, 2011

This fall, I had the opportunity to represent TWLOHA at three Out of the Darkness Community Walks in Indiana. I’m very proud to say that one of the walks I attended was one I helped organize. This year, I volunteered for the job of Walk Chair for the Evansville Out of the Darkness Community Walk.

I attended two walks last year, and I found that most of the walks were occurring in upstate Indiana. Any Hoosier knows that northern Indiana and southern Indiana are practically two different states.  Being a southern Indiana girl, most of my friends and family live in the southern half of the state. I know many people who have been affected by suicide, and I knew most of them couldn’t make it to the walks up north. So I decided to bring the walk to them.

I’m a sophomore in college, and along with being a full-time student, I’m also the President of my school’s TWLOHA UChapter. Many people thought I was crazy for taking on another project (and trust me, sometimes I think so, too), but I knew this was something I had to at least try. I knew if I didn’t try, then the Evansville OOTD Walk wouldn’t happen. At least if I tried, then there was a chance to bring resources, hope, and support to my own community.

A random meeting on a hot summer day in June gave me the encouragement and assurance I needed. I was walking around my hometown (about 40 miles from the actual OOTD Walk location) posting flyers about the walk, and I went into a local ice cream shop. The place was empty except for the workers and a twenty-something young woman who was on the phone. I was arranging some flyers on the table when I heard her end her phone call and walk over to me. She asked to see a flyer and introduced herself. Her name is Ashly. I told her about the walk and what we hope to accomplish with it. She looked at me with a surprised expression and said, “I think you are a godsend. I lost my brother to suicide almost two years ago, and I really need something like this.” We went on to talk for twenty minutes. She told me about her brother and how it felt to lose him.  We talked about the need for resources for survivors and what we can do to help. She added me on Facebook a few days after we met, and almost every week I saw a new advertisement for a fundraiser or benefit she organized to raise money in honor of her brother. Ashly went on to be the top fundraiser for the Evansville Out of the Darkness Walk.  Seeing her put so much effort into the walk was a constant inspiration and encouragement.

I’ve always been inspired by stories of people who have used their pain to fight for something greater than themselves. It shows what the human spirit is truly capable of accomplishing and how strong we can be, even through the darkest times. These walks not only provide resources and encouragement for survivors, but also give them a positive outlet for their pain. Most of the people who volunteer and donate to this cause are people who have been affected by suicide.  These are people who are fighting to save lives and keeping the memories of their loved ones strong.

As long as these walks exist, we’ll keep walking. Walking for the ones we’ve lost and the ones who are still fighting and surviving. Walking for the survivors. Walking for the hope that one day the stigma of suicide will be silenced.

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