HILLSDALE – On Sunday, October 1, Hillsdale County’s first Out of the Darkness Walk will be held to raise awareness about suicide prevention.

The walk is open to all community members to attend and there is no cost to register or participate in the walk.

Registration will begin at 10:30 a.m. at Hillsdale American Legion Post 53. The opening ceremony will be at noon and the walk will begin at 1 p.m. and will take participants around Baw Beese Lake and back to the Legion.

Shannon Horn, president of Hillsdale Walk, said she hopes the event will bring the community together and open up dialogue about suicide.

“We will have some speakers, resource tables, activities and a recognition ceremony where each walker can choose a colored necklace according to the type of loss they experienced,” she said. “Walking is also a space for healing and a place to have an honest conversation about mental health. The more we talk openly and directly about suicide, the more we can help prevent it.

Horne volunteers for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), which gave her the idea for the walk.

“They host community drives around the country to raise awareness about suicide prevention,” she said. “The community response has been amazing.”

Several local organizations and businesses have already sponsored the walk and helped raise funds.

“Hillsdale Pizza Hut (Wendy Coe) has been a great supporter by allowing us to host fundraising events several times,” Horn said. “We have raised about $2,500 so far this year. Eighty-three cents of every dollar raised goes directly to AFSP’s life-saving research, education, advocacy and survivor support programs.

Horn was able to get AFSP approval to walk in early January, and since then she has been spending time educating herself on how to plan the walk and has begun that planning process.

Horn said the walk wouldn’t be possible without the support of his fellow volunteers and the community.

“All of the planning efforts have been done with the help of co-chair Sonia Crisp and our amazing committee who share the same passion we do about this,” Horn said. ”

Personal experiences with suicide were very inspiring to Horn in her volunteer work as well as in planning the walk.

“I lost my uncle in 2008 to suicide. He was the chief of the US Navy,” she explained. “My eldest daughter had mental health issues and attempted suicide. She is a survivor.

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In fact, Horne’s grandmother, Betty Starr Page, planned the first Out of the Darkness walk in Fairbanks, Alaska, where she now lives. She will be visiting Hillsdale to speak at the Hillsdale Walk.

Horne said she hopes the walk will help break the stigma associated with talking about how suicide affects families’ lives.

“This work is very important to me,” Horn said. “I truly believe we can make a difference and break the stigma.”

Register in advance for the hike by visiting afsp.org/hillsdaleco.

– Elise Apple, reporter for the Hillsdale Daily News. She can be reached via email at ehawkins@hillsdale.edu.

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