June 27, 2017 – AFSP CEO Robert Gebbia welcomed participants to the second of two Overnight Walks this year, remarking in his opening speech that he was thrilled to bring the event back to the nation’s capital, where the first Overnight was held in 2002. This was the 20th Overnight Walk, and presented a unique opportunity to spread the message to political leaders, as well as the general public, that more must be done to combat the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Gebbia dedicated the walk to the brave men and women of our military who have lost their lives to combat, and to suicide.
As the sun set, Gebbia brought actor Tramell Tillman to the stage, who spoke of his own battles with depression and suicidal ideation, and then introduced some of the extraordinary people in the AFSP community, each representing a specific type of loss, displayed by different colored honor beads. One by one, Tillman shared the background behind each of these individuals, who have lost children, parents, spouses, friends, family, and those who have struggled themselves. Warmly cheering for each, the crowd was reminded that while everyone’s experience is unique and personal, their connection to each other is unbreakable due to the incredible, bittersweet strength of what they, and so many others, share in common.
Overnight North Stars – those who had raised more than $10,000 each through donations – headed to the start line. “Are you ready to walk from dusk to dawn?” Gebbia then asked the crowd. “Are you going to take care of each other out there? Are you ready to bring our message of hope to the streets of our nation’s capital?”
Motivated and inspired, participants began walking at 8 p.m. Throughout the course of the night, walkers journeyed past landmarks including the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol building, the Library of Congress, Union Station, and the White House, among many others. Supported by each other, and joining fellow walkers in conversation and sharing personal stories – or in some cases, simply making eye contact to silently communicate their understood, powerful connection – Overnight participants arrived at 5 a.m. back at Lincoln Memorial Plaza for the closing ceremonies as the sun rose, symbolizing the bringing of light to the darkness of suicide.
Roused by a performance by the a capella group Clear Harmonies, Gebbia then addressed the crowd, thanking them for their effort and participation. Tramell Tillman once again took the stage to speak movingly of his own experience with suicidal ideation, and how his realization that so many others also struggle with suicidal thoughts has helped him to healthily manage his own mental health.
Dozens of luminaria had the night before been placed on the stage in memory of lives lost, and the personal struggles of individuals. These lights were now joined by a thousand more, bringing light and hope to all those affected by suicide.
AFSP extends its heartfelt thanks to all those who walked, and to each volunteer, crew member, and donor who participated in the 2017 Washington, D.C. Overnight. Enormous thanks go out as well to Gold Sponsor Sunovion, and EverBar, Sugar Shack Donuts, and EventRentals D.C. for their generous donations.
For more photos from the event, check out our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/overnightwalk/
You may also view the opening and closing ceremonies:
Opening Ceremony: https://www.facebook.com/overnightwalk/videos/1507946595935897/
Closing Ceremony: https://www.facebook.com/overnightwalk/videos/1508337909230099/
We hope to see you in 2018!