Walking to Remember

Hundreds walked in the annual Out of the Darkness Walk sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Some walked to remember a loved one. Some walked to support others while promoting hope. But when they walked, they walked together as a community affected by suicide.

Out of the Darkness participants gather in a bead ceremony. Crowd members hold up blue beads, signifying support to someone who struggles or has attempted suicide. 📷 all photos by Zachary Correa

In all, nearly 480 individuals, including 39 teams, walked from Tyler Legacy High School to and through the Rose Rudman trails on Sept. 24 in the annual The Out of Darkness Community Walk.

John Vieira, right, walked with family members in memory of his son, Randal Gutierrez .

The event, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, raised $36,594 for suicide awareness and mental health. The day’s activities included an honor bead ceremony allowing participants to show a connection to the cause.

Carla McKenzie, middle, with partners from Texas Department of State Health Services.

Carla McKenzie, who works with the Texas Department of State Health Services, participated in a team whose members wanted to show the importance of suicide awareness and the effects the pandemic had on mental health.

Mindy Wallace, left, and Donna Thomas, right, walked to support everyone who struggles with suicidal ideation and in memory of Thomas’s sister, Vicki Hester.

“So, just to be out here to walk as a community and to provide support for those who have lost loved ones through the pandemic or even had thoughts of suicide during the pandemic,” McKenzie explained.

Chelsea Cheek, seated with her daughter, walked as part of Team Brys, in memory of
Brys Cheek.
Valerie Flores, left, and her daughters volunteered for Walmart to support the ASPF.
Robert and Barbie Bowman walk for their son, Sgt. Cody Bowman.

Robert and Barbie Bowman understand the pain of losing a loved one. They lost their son, Sgt. Cody Bowman, to suicide in 2019. He suffered from PTSD, they said.

“When we lost him, we found out about Mission 22, and that’s when we became a part of it,” Barbie Bowman said.

Mission 22 is a veteran-operated, non-profit that works to prevent suicide among veterans. Robert Bowman said 87.5% of funds raised support the group’s free programs.

Kayla Bennett, middle, walks with her sisters to remember her late husband, Matthew.

Kayla Bennett lost her husband, Matthew, to suicide three months ago.

“I’m walking for my husband. He was my high school sweetheart,” she said. “We had been together for 13 years and married for six. He was very smart, loved his friends, had a huge group of friends.”

High school students volunteered during the walk, holding signs of hope.
Veteran Lannell Brown holds up silver beads during a solemn ceremony to recognize losing a first responder or military member to suicide.
Samantha Wallace, left, Julie Bass, center, and Cody Wallace, right, supported each other in this year’s walk. Bass said she began walking at Out of the Darkness after she lost her grandfather, “Papa Sid.”

Julie Bass said she has walked at the event since 2016 when she lost her grandfather, Sidney Shaddix.

“We called him Papa Sid,” she said.

Michelle Chapman holds white beads, signifying the loss of a child by suicide.
Kay Pleasant’s red beads signify her loss of a spouse by suicide.
Tyler Area Gay’s Jay Hilburn holds rainbow beads to honor members of the LGBTQ community, who face greater risk to dying by suicide.

Cody Wallace said Bass is the person who encouraged him to join the walk and support the Evie Rocks group.

“We’re trying to get a little group going every year … build a group, make it better each year, ” Wallace said.

Zachary Correa is a photographer from Dallas, Texas, now living in Winona. He considers himself a humanist and naturalist, inspired by John Goodall and Dylan Thomas. Correa appreciates his loving family and his two furry companions, Walker and Molly.

Vanessa E. Curry is a journalist with nearly 35 years of experience as a writer, editor and instructor. She earned a B.S. degree in Mass Communication from Illinois State University and a MSIS degree from The University of Texas at Tyler with emphasis on journalism, political science and criminal justice. She has worked newspaper in Marlin, Henderson, Tyler and Jacksonville, Texas as well as in Columbia Tennessee. Vanessa also was a journalism instructor at the UT-Tyler and Tennessee Tech University. Her writing has been recognized by the State Bar of Texas, Texas Associated Press Managing Editors, Dallas Press Club, and Tennessee Press Association. She currently is working on publishing two books: “Lies and Consequences: The Trials of Kerry Max Cook,” and “A Gold Medal Man, A biography of Kenneth L. “Tug” Wilson.

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Vanessa E. Curry is a journalist with nearly 35 years of experience as a writer, editor and instructor. She earned a B.S. degree in Mass Communication from Illinois State University and a MSIS degree from The University of Texas at Tyler with emphasis on journalism, political science and criminal justice. She has worked newspaper in Marlin, Henderson, Tyler and Jacksonville, Texas as well as in Columbia Tennessee. Vanessa also was a journalism instructor at the UT-Tyler and Tennessee Tech University. Her writing has been recognized by the State Bar of Texas, Texas Associated Press Managing Editors, Dallas Press Club, and Tennessee Press Association. She currently is working on publishing two books: "Lies and Consequences: The Trials of Kerry Max Cook," and "A Gold Medal Man, A biography of Kenneth L. "Tug" Wilson.
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