May 26, 2017 – On May 20, 2017, over 1,000 people gathered in San Diego at Ruocco Park to participate in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk. Walking through the night from dusk to dawn, those involved raised over $1,100,000 to support the work of AFSP in funding research, education, advocacy, and support for those affected by suicide.
The first Overnight Walk of 2017 – and the first ever to be held in San Diego – began with a performance by the Lighthouse Circus Theater. Walkers were then led through an inspiring (and limbering) stretching exercise by Nasara Gargonnu of Sirius Fitness. CEO Robert Gebbia, making note that San Diego is known for its military bases, dedicated the walk to the brave men and women of our military – those we’ve lost to combat and those we’ve lost to suicide. “Tonight,” he remarked, “we bring a message of hope to the streets of San Diego, and we walk for a day when suicide will not cut short the lives of our family members, our friends, our coworkers, our classmates, or the lives of our veterans and members of the military. Tonight we walk to lift up those who struggle, those who have thoughts of suicide, and those who have acted on those thoughts. And to everyone with us tonight who has experienced being suicidal, I say to you, ‘Thank you for your courage, and we are so glad you are with us!’”
Jessica van der Stad, AFSP’s Area Director for San Diego, Orange County and Inland Empire/Desert Cities, then presented the Honor Bead Ceremony. It is through the wearing of different colored beads that we signify each walker’s personal connection to the cause, and their relationship to those they have lost. A participant wearing each type of bead then joined Jessica on the stage, honoring their loved ones.
At 8pm, walkers began their emotional trek together through San Diego. Points of interest throughout the night included the historic Gaslamp Quarter, Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo, and the USS Midway.
Walkers arrived at 5am back at Ruocco Park, having spent the night joining together in solidarity, and in many cases, forming friendships that will last for a long time to come. Thousands of luminaria – each one representing a life touched by suicide – lined the end of the route. The acapella group The Over Tones, from Los Angeles, sang powerful renditions of Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Hallelujah. Gebbia once again thanked all those who participated for their enormous passion, support, and participation. He then welcomed to the stage Daina Norusis, who spoke movingly about her own lived experience and struggles with mental health. “With the love and support of people like you, and with the tenacity and sheer force of will that I’ve discovered inside me, I will remain out of the darkness.”
As the sun rose over the beautiful Pacific coastline, the closing ceremony concluded.
Thanks go out to every walker, volunteer, crew member and donor at the 2017 San Diego Overnight. We hope to see you again in 2018!
Special thanks to our route sponsor, Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital.
For more photos from the event, check out our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/overnightwalk/
Also in case you missed it, the opening and closing ceremonies were captured live, check it out!
Opening Ceremony: https://www.facebook.com/overnightwalk/videos/1479530028777554/
Closing Ceremony: https://www.facebook.com/overnightwalk/videos/1479861278744429/