Walkers take to the streets to fight suicide

LEWISTOWN — The inaugural Out of the Darkness Community Walk will be held in Lewistown on Oct. 1. The walk, which was initiated by the Juniata Valley Healing Connections group last year in Huntingdon, will be held in two walk locations that run on the same day and the same time.

The Lewistown walk will be at Kish Park and the Huntingdon walk will be at Juniata College, both at 1 p.m.

Juniata Valley Healing Connections, which serves Mifflin, Juniata and Huntingdon counties, is planning the walks in conjunction with more than 375 walks being held nationwide this year. More than 200 participants are pre-registered to walk at the Juniata Valley walks.

Stephanie Smith, committee member for the Lewistown walk, said, “Walks have been happening in surrounding areas for years and for Healing Connections it was time to start one in our county area because suicide is prevalent in the area and breaking the stigma of not talking about suicide is important.”

According to a press release from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, yet suicide is preventable. The fundraising walk supports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s local and national education and advocacy programs and its bold goal to reduce the annual rate of suicide 20 percent by 2025.

“We walk to raise awareness about this important health issue,” said Shelly Rivello, walk co-chair. “Suicide touches one in five American families. We hope that by walking we save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide.”

As a fundraiser and memorial event, the walk is actively recruiting teams, individual walkers and sponsors. Registration and donations are accepted at www.afsp.org/walk. Search for the Juniata Valley-Huntingdon and Juniata Valley-Lewistown locations. If unable to attend, participants may sign up to be virtual walkers through the website.