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The initial walk last year drew a supportive crowd to Statesville. 

Susan Tolle knows just how important an upcoming walk to raise awareness for suicide prevention is. After all, it developed from a personal place in her own life.

I have a child, our youngest, … who has struggled with suicide attempts in the past,” Tolle says of her child who is “in a healthy place today.”

“This was about three years ago,” she said. “I was at a total loss. I didn’t know where to turn.”

She delved through information in her quest for answers, discovering the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She asked her friend — and now Walk co-founder — Debbie Howell to join her at an Out of the Darkness Walk in Charlotte. And she immediately knew she had to bring it, with its comfort and support, to the Statesville area.

They almost immediately did just that.

That was 2017. By 2018, Tolle and Howell have fast-tracked their own walk in Iredell County.

Now they are preparing for the second annual Central Piedmont Out of the Darkness Community Walk. The event will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Statesville High School Stadium. Registration begins at 9 a.m. with the opening ceremony at 10 and the walk to follow.

It’s an event that could touch many lives.

The walk supports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s education and support programs and its “bold goal to reduce the annual U.S. rate of suicide 20 percent by the year of 2025,” a release stated. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, a release stated. Volunteers from Statesville and Mooresville are joining the quarter-million people who are walking in towns across the country to draw attention to the fight for suicide prevention.

For Howell, it works well with a program she’s already involved in. Talk Saves Lives educates any group that is interested in learning things to watch for when it comes to suicide. The program has trained every person in the Iredell-Statesville Schools that touches a child, Howell said. The program can be presented to “anybody that will listen.”

This particular walk has taken off in the Statesville community. Last year the goal was to raise $5,000 and the group raised approximately $32,000. It has already surpassed its goal of $30,000 this year.

This weekend’s walk is one of 550 across the country. They are expected to bring out more than 300,000 walkers and raise millions toward suicide awareness. Of the money raised from Saturday’s walk, half will stay in the county to go toward training and materials. The other goes to the national office for research and other aspects of the program.

Tolle is pleased with the community embrace of the program, though not completely surprised.

“You could have knocked me over with a feather,” she said of the support the walk has received.

But surprised?

“I’ve lived here 25 years and I know how when the community gets behind something, they’re really behind it,” Tolle said.

“It’s amazing the number of people that want to be involved,” Tolle said.

There will be 18 vendor booths there. Veterans will be supported through these vendors, as will Fifth Street Ministries and mental-health providers. There will even be a relaxation station based on research that rocking helps relieve stress, so a company will bring some rockers to help people feel that stress relief.

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Rea White is the Editor of the

Statesville Record & Landmark

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