A few weeks ago an email went out to all registered walkers asking for volunteers to help coordinate the event. I checked my calendar, and saw that it was my weekend without the kids, so I volunteered.
I arrived about an hour before the walk and was immediately put to work on luminaries. AFSP (at least at the Cincinnati walk) has a booth set up with markers and white paper bags. The walkers are encouraged to write messages to loved ones taken by suicide. Afterwards, me and fellow volunteers put a bit of kitty litter (to keep them weighed down) and a battery operated candle in the bags and line them up along either side of the path the participants will be walking. The walk begins at dusk so by the time they come to the end (where the luminaries are) they are walking a path lit with these beautiful messages.
Because I was pretty busy helping out, I didn’t manage to get any pictures of the pathway after dark, but I did manage to get these shots after we finished.
Those shots are from the very center of the path we made and extend for quite a bit in either direction and it struck me as we were doing this that every single one of these bags was dedicated to someone lost to suicide. In fact, I saw a handful of bags which had multiple names on them. This was a very distressing thought, and kept me in a somber mood for some time.
We finished with the luminaries just a couple of minutes after the walkers began and I was able to snap a couple of shots as folks literally piled into the path laid out before them.
The goal the Cincinnati chapter set this year was for 1500 walkers. They ended up with over 2000. Also, they set a goal to raise at least $75,000. They raised over $88.000. All in all, it was a very successful walk.
After the walkers returned, there was a vigil. A choir sang harmoniously. Board members shared stories of their losses. These stories are always tough to hear. Tales of people losing their brothers, sisters, parents, spouses, or children hit you right in the gut. A woman sang a beautiful song she wrote for a dear friend who took his life. Then, for the finale, they have a balloon launch.
You can’t tell from the pictures, but the balloons had small flashing lights in them and it is quite a scene to behold.
The event was over then, then we set to task cleaning everything up. It took about an hour and a half, most of which was spent putting all of the kitty litter back in to containers and saving the bags for next year’s walk.
This morning I’m sore and tired. I’m not used to slinging around tables, chairs, and tents. It’s a good sore, though. I feel really good about helping out and I’m very happy that the walk turned out to be one of the most successful the Cincinnati chapter has had to date.