Alicia French’s efforts to offer hope and support to those touched by suicide culminated Feb. 23 when more than thirty community members gathered at Tahoma High for a 5K walk to raise awareness of suicide and offer support to one another.
Participants wore beaded necklaces of different colors, with each color symbolizing the relationships through which they had been touched by suicide — spouses, parents, children, friends, first responders and military members.
“The more awareness the better,” sad Leanne Shipley, a teacher at Tahoma High and participant in the walk. “There are a lot more people than we know.”
The walk was organized by Alicia French, a senior at Tahoma, for her senior project and was sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The walk was also a fundraiser for AFSP, with the money raised going toward local programs to raise awareness and offer help as well as counseling to those struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.
“I wish more people had come out but I’m happy with the fact we’ve raised so much,” French said. “It doesn’t matter how many people came out, there are 37 more people who are aware.”
The AFSP hosts campus walks, community walks and works with other organizations to raise awareness according to Jo McNeal, Pacific Northwest area director.
For Candi Lommen, a community member and teacher at Cedar River Middle School, the walk was a chance to de-stigmatize suicide.
“We have suicide in our family,” Lommen said. “It was a big secret nobody talked about it. I’m walking for that.”
For Maureen Schnell and Angie Mogensen it was a desire to offer support that brought them out to the walk.
“We’re just trying to understand and help and be open minded and talk abut the negative stigma,” Mogensen said.
So far the community and participants in the walk have raised $3,205. Donations can be made online at afsp.donordrive.com until June 30. Search for Tahoma to find the event.
“It’s nice to know they (those who have been touched by suicide) are among us and can find some healing through this event,” said Monica Robbins, student assistance program counselor at the high school. “That’s the goal.”