For the past two years, community members have walked through Lorain County Community College’s main campus to raise awareness and funding for suicide prevention.
This year’s walk starts at 11 a.m. Saturday, rain or shine, with free registration beginning at 10 a.m. at LCCC’s Field House. The walk will be about 2 miles through the college’s campus. This year’s goal for “Out of the Darkness” walk is to raise $15,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Organizer Debra DiCillo said people have started to look for the walk every year, and she expects to have more than 200 people attend the event.
“People come and they’re grieving, they’re hurting, but our message really is uplifting,” DiCillo said. “It’s about hope, it’s about healing. We try to make it a good event for the attendees, and then they tell other people about it.”
She said she started the walk at LCCC three years ago after having a team attend the Cleveland event at Wade Oval in University Circle. She said some attendees requested an event closer to home. DiCillo chose LCCC because college-age students are at an increased risk for suicide, as well as the demographics the event could reach at the community college.
“LCCC was a good choice for me, I think, because it’s easily accessible, it’s a beautiful campus, there’s good parking there and they have a lot of demographics there, not just college-age kids,” she said. “There’s a lot of veterans that go there — veterans are at a high risk of suicide, as we know — nontraditional students.”
The event will include information from mental health resources, as well as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. A small opening ceremony at 11 a.m. will include speeches from Dr. Kathleen Kern of the Lorain County Board of Mental Health and Josh Ruminski, owner of Happy Thoughts Candle Company and suicide attempt survivor. Attendees can bring photos of loved ones with a small message to put on a memorial wall.
While the event is billed as a suicide prevention walk, DiCillo said attendees don’t have to walk if they don’t want to or are unable.
“I have people contacting me saying, ‘What if I can’t walk two miles?’ You don’t have to walk,” she said.
“You could do laps around the field house or just stay and cheer people on to walk and get support and get the resources from the tables.”
For DiCillo, like many others who attend the walks, the event is personal. DiCillo became involved in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the walk after losing her daughter to suicide.
“I know what it’s like, those first few years,” she said. “You just feel so isolated, you just feel so alone and then you go to a walk and you look around and there’s a couple hundred people standing there and go, ‘Oh my gosh, every single person here has been affected by suicide.’ It just shows you there’s support there, there’s other people who get it, all there to help each other and support each other and how it helps with your healing when you realize that you aren’t the only one.”