Taking a Step Towards Awareness
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The Out of the Darkness Walks are the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s largest fundraiser. The walks take place across the nation, and the donations help to fund suicide prevention by creating educational programs, advocating for public policy supporting mental health, and supporting family members and friends who have lost loved ones to suicide. Though donating is encouraged, donations are not necessary in order to walk.
Our own ‘Iolani water polo teams, Key Club, and GSA participated in The Out Of Darkness Walk on September 17 at Magic Island. The ‘Iolani participants, ‘Iolani Cares, ranked second in the O‘ahu Walks for the most amount of donations. The team became involved in this annual walk after a varsity water polo teammate, Thomas Schowalter ’13, took his life in August, 2011. Ms. Cate Waidyatilleka, who has been on the organizing committee of AFSP for the last two years, and who was very close to the player said,
“We need to be able to talk about mental health issues to be able to fix them. If someone is looking sad, that is an invitation to ask how you can help.”
Following the 2.5 mile walk, the participants enjoyed various activities such as attending a White Elephant sale, bidding in a silent auction, and more. ‘Iolani Cares put on the henna booth and Cake Walk with homemade cakes. The water polo teams offered breakfast, snacks, refreshments, and bento lunches.
“The walks are expected to unite more than 250,000 nationwide walkers, raise millions of dollars for suicide prevention efforts, raise awareness about depression and suicide, and provide comfort and assistance to those who have lost someone to suicide,” said Eric Tash, chairperson of the American Suicide Prevention Task Force in Hawai‘i. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s hopes to reduce the annual suicide rate by 20 percent though efforts funded by these walks. Ethan Buck ’19 said, “It was heartwarming to see the impact of the walk.”