Saturday’s second annual Out of the Darkness walk against suicide Saturday in Island Park was an event of mourning and celebration.
About 400 people — twice the number of last year’s walk — gathered to remember those lost to suicide and to raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Organizer Theresa Papon was moved by the number of people who came and by the amount of money they raised — $10,000 — that will go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“This is more wonderful than I expected,” Papon said.
People came from as far away as Kansas City for the event. One couple who just moved to Winfield came from Northern Ireland.
The suicide rate in Kansas was 18.1 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2018, and youth suicide increased significantly between 2016 and 2017. So far in 2019, Cowley County has seen a big rise in youths taking their owns lives.
At the event, people came early to listen to music, visit with friends, check out the tables of organizations on hand to offer support services. They wrote up notes to hang on a remembrance tree for suicide victims. Sometimes they cried and were comforted by friends or family.
From a table of beads of many colors, they chose beads to wear that explained their status: white for loss of a child, red for loss of a spouse or partner, gold for loss of a parent, orange for loss of a sibling, purple for loss of a relative or friend, silver for loss of a first responder or military, green for a personal struggle or attempt, teal for supporting someone who is fragile, and blue for supporting suicide prevention.
At the Grace Episcopal Church Pride flag, many people, including many pre-teens, wrote prayers and notes to hang on the flag. The flag was unfurled in church on Sunday and the prayers offered in the service.
The walkers, carriages, strollers and dogs stretched a third of the length of the road around the park, together in their desire to help everyone walk into the light.