Community

Bremerton residents to participate in ‘overnight walk’

Event aimed at spreading suicide prevention awareness.

After months of training, 10 members of the Bremerton community will participate in the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk, scheduled for June 21-22 in Seattle.

Organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in 2002, the event calls for participants to walk a 20-mile course between sunset and sunrise. It is intended to raise money for suicide awareness and shed light on a topic some prefer to ignore.

New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington D.C. have hosted the walk and now Seattle is on board.

“We picked Seattle for a number of reasons,” American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Executive Director Robert Gabbia said. “We want to establish a chapter (in Seattle), so there’s year-round work done in the area.”

AFSC is a non-profit organization aimed at preventing suicide through understanding, research and education.

The overnight walk, which generally attracts between 1,400 and 1,500 participants, brings the issue of suicide out into the “light,” Gabbia said.

About 1,200 people have registered for the Seattle walk.

“It varies from city to city,” Gabbia said of the number of walkers. “We do get a nice turnout.”

After an opening ceremony and introduction, participants begin the walk, going at their own space. The route, Gabbia said, is carefully marked and food, drink and medical stations are placed throughout the course.

“We try to make it comfortable for the walkers,” he said. “We want them to have a good experience.”

The overnight walk brings together young and old, offering those affected by suicide an opportunity to share stories, make friends and remember loved ones.

“These are people who have been personally touched by the issue of suicide,” Gabbia said.

Victoria Ardoin, who moved to Bremerton nine years ago, will walk in memory of her step-father. Her mom and sister are flying from Bakersfield, Calif. to join in the walk.

“We’re doing it in memory of my step-dad,” she said. “We’re really excited about it.”

Ardoin hopes to share her story with others who are in similar situations.

“My mom was the one who got me into it,” she said. “I’m excited to get out there and meet other people.”

While seven months pregnant, Ardoin said she’ll make the walk regardless. She has run half-marathons in the past, helping her prepare for the 20-mile trek.

“That wasn’t foreseen,” she joked of the pregnancy. “I’ve just been trying to walk every night.”

Like Ardoin, most who will walk have been personally affected by suicide. Anybody interested, however, is encouraged to participate.

“It’s really meant to raise awareness about the problem of suicide,” Gabbia said. “In general, we get very good feedback.”

A closing ceremony, which usually begins at about 5 a.m. when the sun rises, offers the walkers a chance to reflect on the walk as a whole unit.

“It’s a very powerful experience,” Gebbia said. “It’s also very hopeful.”

More information about the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk is available online at http://www.theovernight.org/.

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