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COLUMBUS, Ind. — Organizers of the Out of the Darkness Community Walk know they made a difference last year when the inaugural event raised $18,808.
But more than the numbers, Kisha Allman remembers the conversations and the personal impact the event had on people who had experienced the suicide of a friend or family member — and even the people who were trying to prevent a suicide.
“I was just blown away,” Allman said of the first walk here.
The walk is connected to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and because of the amount of money raised, Allman, 31, was invited to the organization’s national meeting in Washington. There, she accepted an award recognizing the Columbus walk as the third-most-successful such event in the country.
After starting out with a modest goal last year of $5,000 and exceeding that by $13,000, Allman and other organizers decided to aim high. This year’s goal: $25,000.
The three-mile walk will start at noon May 12 at Hamilton Center on 25th Street.
For Allman, the issue of suicide hits very close to home. Her father took his own life in 2008. Allman saw the warning signs and did what she could to prevent it.
Allman also wants to make people understand the impact suicide can have on communities. Event organizers are trying to collect 828 pairs of shoes, which that they will lay end to end at the walk to represent the number of Hoosiers who committed suicide in 2011.
Katie Thomas, 29, of Columbus, a member of the organizing committee, met Allman last year when she and about 20 family members and friends formed a team to walk at the event.
Thomas’ mother killed herself when Thomas was just 10.
“It was very therapeutic,” Thomas said, adding that it was comforting to talk to people who knew what she was feeling. “We could make connections.”
Thomas said her mother “suffered from depression all her life. I just didn’t know the extent.”
Allman said she is working to provide schools here with copies of a suicide prevention video called “More Than Sad,” using money raised last year.
She also said she hopes to create a support group for survivors of suicide, because she knows how important it is to have a place to talk.
“A support group was one of the first things I looked for when my dad died, and I couldn’t find any,” said Allman, who hopes to have a local group started by the end of the year.
Allman has dedicated many hours to organizing the walk and to other efforts that could help prevent suicide or provide support for survivors. She is not complaining, however. This is what she wants to do.
“These walks will continue every year,” she said.
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