The third annual Suicide Prevention Walk held Sept. 24 at Lee Stadium in Newcomerstown raised more than $16,000 for awareness and prevention programs in Tuscarawas County.
A total of 223 walkers participated.
"This is the first year we went through the ADAMHS Board of Tuscarawas and Carroll counties," said Kristie Wilkin of Newcomerstown, co-chair of the event. "That way, all the funds will stay in Tuscarawas County so we can see them work
"There have been 19 suicides that we know of, just since April, in our local counties and we want to make a difference. We want to get the word out there. We want people to kno there’s help and there’s hope. That’s our message."
She predicted that the event will likely raise $17,000 once all of the donations come in.
Her suicide support group will work with the ADAMHS Board to decide where the money is going to be spent. Most of it will go to awareness and prevention, she said.
The first year, the walk raised $10,800. That amount increased to $11,800 the second year.
The event also had 21 sponsors this year, compared to six or eight the first two years.
"I think the difference is people knowing that the money’s going to stay here and we’re going to see it work," Wilkin said.
Among the speakers before the walk was Jen Dotto of New Philadelphia who lost her brother to suicide five months ago. Her message was "Have hope and ask for help."
Also speaking was Jimmy Alexander of Mount Vernon, who talked about how he became both a drug user and drug trafficker after he left high school. He told of how he hurt his family and lived a lifestyle "that was dark and gloomy."
He said he was consumed by guilt as his friends overdosed from the drugs that he had sold them. He considered suicide but said he stopped when he felt God telling him not to do it.
He told the audience two things: You are not alone and there is hope.
Also speaking was Sam Hitchcock, president of New Philadelphia City Council and director of the Park Place Teen Center; and Brad Hurtig, who talked about how he turned his life around after he lost both of his hands in an accident.
Another walk is being planned for 2018 at Lee Stadium.