LIVERPOOL, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)– Neighbors from all across Central New York came together Saturday morning for a cause, walking in the Out of the Darkness walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The annual event brings together loved ones who have lost family and friends to suicide or have struggled with mental health themselves to not only remember and honor those that have passed but to spread awareness.
For Alicia Clifford this walk is a way to keep the memory of her brother, Jeff Kimball alive.
“He definitely brought a lot of light to people’s lives so we feel like he continues to do that, he continues to be with us when we do things like this and it allows us to feel closer to him,” Clifford said.
Jeff died by suicide in 2007, bringing unimaginable pain to those who love him most, but his family was able to find community through the walk that helped them to cope.
“It was just really helpful for all of us to come together to be able to remember him in a way that felt like we were going to perhaps make some meaning from the loss,” she said.
That sense of meaning is what motivated Rob Helfrich to create Life Worth Living, a non-profit organization in honor of his son Zach who took his life in 2019.
“To give back and hopefully prevent other families from suffering the way we suffered it’s a good thing,” Helfrich said.
But the walk isn’t just to bring together a community of people with shared experiences, but to provide local resources for those in need.
“We want to educate the public and just our voices to let people know that it’s okay to not be okay, but we need to reach out and get help,” Chair of the walk, Stacy Green said.
And reaching out for help is what 15-year-old Maddy Gessini did when she struggled with her mental health.
“It was really hard for me to even tell my closest best friends what I was struggling with, but when I was ready I shared my story and I had more people come to me saying me too,” Gessini said.
Now she’s using her own experiences to help her peers in need, making sure they know that they aren’t alone and that it’s always okay to ask for help.
The foundation has raised over $139,000 so far this year and is accepting donations until the end of this year.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.