ELYRIA — Roughly two dozen people came together to walk in memory of loved ones and raise awareness for suicide prevention Saturday evening.
The group marched from Ely Square, around the high school and back, cheered on by honking cars and passers-by as the group chanted “You are enough” and “Be the voice.”
Led by Keandra Booker, who organized a series of suicide prevention events this weekend, the walk was a chance to bring the cause out into the community and gain visibility as they looped through downtown, signs held high.
“Every so many minutes, somebody is committing suicide,” she said. “If we think how this walk can be so long, think about how often somebody’s losing their life to suicide. So we walk for a reason, we walk for a cause. We walk for our family members, our friends who are not here. And like for me, I walk for myself. This is for me to encourage myself to keep on moving, keep on living.”
She was joined by those who had lost loved ones, like Sierra and Tierra Beckett, both 16, whose brother, Brenden “Bren” Rich-Beckett killed himself in July. He would have been a junior at Elyria High School this year. Roughly two months after his death, the girls donned orange beads — signifying those who had lost a sibling to suicide — and held a sign with “Bren Block” together.
“(The walk) shows that everybody is loved, like people care for them,” Sierra said.
Others, like Arnita Marn, of Sheffield Lake, came to support her friend’s event and those struggling.
“I know people, even loved ones, that have battled with it,” Marn said. “I thank God they didn’t succeed in anything that they did, but it’s just becoming more prevalent and I’m beginning to understand more that this is real and that we need to start talking about it so people can get the help that they need and I think that this is really important and I’m really excited that this is happening in this city.”
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, part of why Booker planned this weekend’s events.
“I didn’t even realize that September was Suicide Awareness Month,” Marn said. “So it was really exciting when she was talking about wanting to do something for Suicide Awareness Month to bring awareness of the month and how important it is to learn about the signs and learning ways to prevent suicide and giving people an avenue to be able to talk and not feel like they can’t.”
After the group looped around the school, they gathered at the gazebo in Ely Square for a candlelight vigil and prayer. Booker read the names of seven individuals who had taken their own lives that family or friends had written on the event’s “memory board.” The names, as written, were: Brandan Stafford, Carl Andrew Stacey, Aaron “Ace Boon,” Shandell Lenix, James Nolan, Leah Shamen and Brenden Rich-Beckett.
Moving forward, Booker plans to hold another event in November, as suicide rates tend to spike around the holidays. She plans to have a walk and vigil and will add an art piece as well.
For those who made the trek Saturday, she said she hopes they walked away knowing they’re part of a community.
“I support anybody, I can’t force my support on anybody, but I want everybody to know that if you lost someone,” Booker said. “I might not be able to feel your pain, but I’m here. I can give you a hug, I can give you an encouraging word, I can give you a meal. … I just want you to know support is here and I want people to know support is here for any reason why you’re walking — loss of a loved one or if you’re struggling with it, or if you contemplated it, or you know somebody. This is why we do this walk, for community.”