SHERIDAN — The eighth annual Wyoming Out of the Darkness Walk, an event hosted by the local chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to raise awareness of and funding for suicide prevention resources in the state, will take place this morning.
Lisa O’Dell, who co-chairs the Sheridan walk, said the Out of the Darkness Walks are crucial to the AFSP’s efforts throughout the rest of the year.
“[The walks] are the premier fundraisers for AFSP,” O’Dell said. “… This where pretty much all of AFSP funding comes from, other than occasional grants.”
O’Dell said the first Wyoming Out of the Darkness Walk was held in 2011, and the walk has been held in Sheridan every year since except in 2013, when it was held in Cody. The AFSP will hold a total of 422 walks across the country, with the goal of raising crucial funding for the organization, but also increasing awareness of suicide prevention resources and efforts. And, both locally and nationally, the events have proven to be a success.
“Every year the participation grows and the fundraising grows,” O’Dell said.
Some of this year’s funding will go toward an interactive screening program, which Sheridan and Gillette colleges are implementing for the first time this year. The program allows students to fill out a survey anonymously and if their responses suggest they are a suicide risk, they will be connected with a counselor and be allowed to consult with them anonymously until they are ready to reach out for help.
“So many people either don’t know that they’re struggling, or the stigma surrounding everything prevents them from asking for help,” O’Dell said. “This way, if they can do it anonymously, it should make a huge difference.”
Cal Furnish, who co-chairs the walk with O’Dell, said in addition to fundraising, the event serves as a way for suicide prevention advocates from throughout the community and state to share resources and build connections.
“There are a lot of good people and a lot of good organizations that are working on this, and we’re working so hard to work together,” Furnish said Friday.
“That’s one of the big pluses with this, is that people in groups that are involved with (suicide prevention) are going to be there together.”
Registration will open at 9 a.m. The event will commence at 10:30 a.m.with an opening ceremony, which will be emceed by Miss Wyoming Becky Bridger in Whitney Commons. Walkers are scheduled to depart the Commons at 11 a.m. and walk a roughly 1-mile loop that will return them to Whitney Commons.