JOHNSONBURG — The Johnsonburg Community Center on Market Street will host the annual Elk County Out of the Darkness Walk to fight suicide Sept. 16 from 2-4 p.m.

Check in and registration begins at 1 p.m.  

The event is intended to raise awareness and funds to, through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), a national organization, invest in new research, create educational programs, advocate for public policy and support survivors of suicide loss.

According to Jennifer Sikora, area director for AFSP of Western Pennsylvania, suicide is a complicated health issue and the rate is generally higher in rural areas than in urban areas.

The fundraising goal for the Elk County Walk is $10,000. Organizer Alyse Martinez said she expects 150 walkers.

“There is a huge barrier. People are afraid to ask for help. We want to remove that stigma,” said Martinez.

Martinez says she likes partnering with AFSP because funding goes back into the local community as well as to AFSP for research. “Research is important in looking for cures and new treatment options. I lost my mom, so I feel like I am making a difference,” she said.

Pre-walk features and activities will include wearable buttons, a temporary tattoo parlor, honor bead necklaces, a memory wall and a wall for messages of hope. There will be music, water, pizza, the AFSP information tent, and a community resource fair to include Cen-Clear, Clarion Psychiatric Center, Community Care, Dickinson Center, and The Meadows. Friendly, leashed pets are permitted, organizers said, and will receive a free doggie bandana.

The walk is not competitive. Walkers walk at their own pace and are not required to complete the entire 5K. 

There is no fee to walk and fundraising is optional.

Anyone interested can contact Alyse Martinez at 814-594-7182 or martine9@duq.edu or register online at afsp.org/elkcounty.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

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