Out of the Darkness: Ardmore residents to hold virtual walk for suicide prevention, awareness Saturday

Sierra Rains
More than 100 individuals walked through Ardmore's Regional Park for the 2019 Out of the Darkness Walk.

For the past three years, Ardmore residents have set aside a day to walk the trails at Regional Park in an effort to fight the 10th leading cause of death in the United States: suicide. 

The Ardmore Out of the Darkness Walk will look a little different this year, but the mission of saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide has not changed. Jamie Johnson, the walk chair, said the walk will primarily be virtual this year, with ways for individuals to connect online at afsp.org/ardmore and the group’s Facebook page. 

“With everything being shut down and people being stuck at home, or losing their jobs, it’s even more critical now than it was almost a year ago because everything that life could throw at you challenge wise, it seems like 2020 has brought it out,” Johnson said. 

The walk will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 10 and individuals are encouraged to share photos or videos of themselves completing the walk wherever they choose, with the hashtag #outofthedarkness. There will also be a table set up at a pavilion at Regional Park, where honor beads and informational handouts will be available. 

Each color of bead represents a different personal connection to the cause, whether they have lost a loved one, struggled personally, are supporting a friend or family, or all of the above, and helps identify others who can understand similar experiences. 

“We all know somebody. They may have not come out and said it, but we all know someone who has depression or someone who has anxiety whether we realize it or not,” Johnson said. “Just showing that there is support and it is not taboo to not be okay — it’s okay to not be okay.”

Evelyn Parrott has been completing the walk since 2016, when her 21-year-old daughter, Faith Powers, passed away. Powers was always very outgoing and happy, Parrott said. She would make everyone laugh and she had a deep love for animals and artistic endeavors. 

No one had realized the degree to which she was struggling. “We were all devastated, it was a surprise because no one in our family actually knew how bad her depression was,” Parrott said. “We didn’t know that she really needed the help that she needed when it happened.”

This year, Parrott and her family will be making the walk again at Regional Park. The team, named “Fighting for Faith,” has already raised $250 for the cause. “A lot of people don’t think there is somebody there to listen and we want to let them know that we are here,” Parrott said. 

The fundraising goal is set at $17,000 for the Ardmore walk this year and every penny goes towards suicide prevention and awareness carried out by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The organization also provides free courses to train individuals on how to help anyone who needs it. 

“There’s a lot of people who want to help but they’re not exactly sure how to do it,” Johnson said. “The online site helps provide the assistance you need in those moments like what questions to ask to kind of pull them out and get them to start talking to you, and to let them know that you’re not just listening through one ear and out the other, you genuinely want to help that person.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has in some ways made it more apparent to family and friends that they do have loved ones that suffer from depression and anxiety, Johnson said. Little things such as calling a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while can make a huge impact. 

“It is going to get better for all of us. If anybody needs support, if anybody needs to reach out, there are groups out there and there is help out there,” Johnson said. “There are even people like myself and Evelyn, people who have already lost loved ones to suicide, who would be more than willing to sit on the other end of the phone and talk.” 

Registration for the walk is free and open to the public. Donations are not required, but are encouraged and will be accepted until Dec. 31. Individuals can register or donate at afsp.org/ardmore. To find out more information, contact Jamie Johnson at (580) 812-1611 or jdandmc2009@gmail.com. 

“We lose too many people a day to suicide that think there’s no other way to get help,” Parrott said. “They are lost in their own minds and they don’t know how to get out. If we raise awareness, maybe we can save at least one person and one family from having to go through this loss.” 

To access resources provided by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, visit www.afsp.org/resources. If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifelife at 1-800-273-8255 or the crisis text line by texting TALK to 741741.