Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Walk for R.I.T.A.: sucide prevention walk wrap up

On Sunday September 16th I drove north to Saratoga to take part in the 8th annual Walk for R.I.T.A. Sucide Prevention Walk.  It was a beautiful sun shiny day, with a slight chill early on, but the weather warmed up quickly. 

When I got there I first went to the registration line to hand in my $25.00 donation for the walk. They had me put my money in an envelope and fill out some information. I asked the girl at the desk if any of my teammates had signed up yet, and she simply looked down the row of people at the registration table and said, "well they could have gone to any line, so I wouldn't know".  That should have been fairly obvious to me I guess, but oh well.  Then I proceeded to lick the envelope she had given me to put my money in, and she said, "It's a peel and seal envelope" making me feel a bit more embarrassed. >.<  So needless to say it was a relief to get out of the registration line before I humiliated my self any more.

The walk was being held at the Saratoga Race Track entrance gates, so I walked into the entrance. I saw an area where "memory quilts" were set up.  I walked through the memory quilts, and as one of the first people there I was able to take some time to look at all the quilts.  The quilts depicted people who had taken their own lives, and they often contained sentiments or poetry from family members remembering their loved one.  The words expressed loss, sorrow and anguish, but most of all they expressed love.   It was a touching sentiment I had not expected to see, and it real brings to light the very real and powerful emotions that suicide elicits.

I waited a while for my teammates to show up.  The registration period was 1 and a half hours and I had been one of the earliest people to arrive.  The only person I knew from my team was Barb, so I had to keep a careful eye out to make sure I saw her.  Barb and her family and friends arrived about 45 minutes after I had and I introduced myself to them.  We all went back inside the gates and listened to the the event MC.  The MC introduced a young 18 year old girl named Holly Salmon who was attending Syracuse University.  Holly performed a song for her 14 year old sister whom had commited suicide in 2011.  It was truly tragic for me to think that a 14 year old child would even entertain thoughts of suicide, no less carry through with the act.  The song was beautiful and well performed. 

The MC went on to give a number of statistics about suicide. She said that over 37,000 people a year commit suicide in the United States alone, and suicide is the number one killer of people between the ages of 17-24 in the United States.  A lot of the stats really brought home the central message of how depression touches every demographic, and how it is a medical condition.  And as such it can be treated.  We can make a difference.  After the statistics they had "survivors" the term given to family members left behind in the wake of a suicide, come on stage and light candles which represented loss in various ways.  A little about each person's story of loss was told.  First was a mother and father who lost their 16 year old son.  Then the partner of Rita, the doctor who the walk was first organized around lighted a candle for the loss of a partner. Next a gentleman came up and lighted a candle for the loss of his father to sucide, who he grew up without ever getting to know. Then Barb came on stage and lit a candle for the loss of a sibling, with the death of her brother David. Then a women came on stage and lit a candle for her 15 year old neice, who had commited suicde, representing the effects on extended family.  Then a man who formed the Saratoga War Horse Program ( a program which pairs returning military veterans with retired race horses to help treat depression) came on stage to represent people who support others whom have lost loved ones to suicide, and finally a young man came on stage and lit a candle to represent someone who has been saved, to represent that hope and survival and happiness even are possible for those suffering with depression.

After the ceremonies, and stories which were all very profound and touching we began the walk.  I had thought that the walk was going to be around the Saratoga Race Track itself, but it turns out that the walk begins at the race track and takes us downtown through the streets of Saratoga before circling back around to the race track. Down town Saratoga is a really beautiful and historic New England town.  The walk itself took about an hour and a half to complete.  It was a little over three miles but you have to walk slowly because of the hundreds of people involved in the walk.  I was surprised they had the walk go through down town, because traffic had to be stopped in a number of places to allow the walkers to pass. We could not have asked for a more beautiful day for the walk though.  When we got back to the race track, Team Bootz, Barb's team that I was invited to be a part of , took a team photo.  When we returned we were given information about how the money raised is used.  It's used in research, it's used in creating programs, directly funding a program at SUNY Albany University, which has a hotline to help students discuss depression, and ultimately identifies students who may be at risk of commiting suicide.  Funds raised also helped to create support programs for formilies who have lost a loved one to suicide.  I left shortly after the team photo.  I was honored to be invited to be a part of the event, and it is certainly something I hope to do in the future, as I look to give continued support to people suffering from depression and contemplating suicide.

1 comment:

  1. I thought it was a very touching post Jon. It seems like it was a nice, peaceful, walk.


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