The message this year for the annual "Walk Into the Light" event at Lee Stadium in Newcomerstown is "There is hope and there is help." The walk is scheduled for Sept. 23.

Newcomerstown will be the host for Tuscarawas/Carroll counties’ fourth Suicide Prevention Walk — "Walk Into the Light" in conjunction with the ADAMHS Board of Tuscarawas/Carroll Co. and the Tusc./Carroll Co. Survivor of Suicide Loss Group. Registration starts at 1 p.m., and the walk and speakers will take place from 2 to 4 p.m.

This walk will raise funds to support vital research, education, advocacy, suicide prevention initiatives, and programs to support those impacted by suicide, and these funds will stay in our counties and will be overseen by the ADAMHS Board of Tusc./Carroll Co. with the local Suicide Support Group members being instrumental in assisting in the decision making of how the funds will benefit Tuscarawas and Carroll counties.

According to Kristie Wilkin, chairman of the event and facilitator of the Tusc./Carroll County Survivor of Suicide Loss Support Group, "Our planning committee, which consists mostly of our support group, is so pleased with the wonderful sponsors, speakers, volunteers, donations of food and services, as well as our teams that have come forth to support our walk for the last four years. We have many people to thank for the successful planning of our fourth walk in Tuscarawas/Carroll counties, and the second walk sponsored by the ADAMHS Board."

Corporate sponsors so far include:

New Philadelphia - Quanex IG and LMI Custom Mixing of Cambridge, Mobile Jams Entertainment, the ADAMHS Board, A.C.E. Inc., Wendy’s, Dover-Phila. Credit Union, and Trinity Episcopal Church – Outreach Committee, and Simpson Heating and Cooling.

Dover - New Life Counseling, Novogradac, Meteor Sealing Systems, Union Hospital, Peterman Plumbing, Harley Davidson, Myers & Miller Podiatry.

Other sponsors include: Dennison - ATR Technologies and Trinity Hospital; Gnadenhutten - Progressive Foam of Gnadenhutten; NAMI of Tuscarawas and Carroll County; Boltaron of Newcomerstown; Lincoln Mfg. of Strasburg; and Belden Brick, Tubar Eureka, and Dover Road Dairy of Sugarcreek.

Each sponsor receives publicity leading up to and the day of the event, as well as their company logos being placed on the shirts given to the walkers that meet their individual fundraising goal of $150..

Co-chairperson Vickie Bricker said the agenda for the day would be, "The event kicks off at 2 p.m. when both Mayor Pat Cadle of Newcomerstown and Mayor Joel Day of New Phildelphia will welcome walkers and attendees, followed by our speaker for this year, Billy Ballenger of Fort Wayne. He and his intern team will present ‘Breaking the Grey’ Program which includes: delivering a message based on real life situations our young people face including the possibility of making bad choices or decisions. Through Billy’s motivational program at the walk: he hopes to help build character thus helping others to make positive choices. Billy has his own personal story to share, and has spoken in the Tuscarawas Valley before. He and his interns will also share in song. We will also have a local speaker that will share her story. The walkers will then be lead in yoga before the walk. Mayor Joel Day will bless the walk. Our balloon launch to honor survivors of suicide loss, and our loved ones lost to suicide is next, and the walk will follow the launch."

Other highlights include: D. J. Daniel Liedtke of Mobile Jams Entertainment, team pictures by Carol Meek and Sarah Williams, a memory banner to write a message to loved one or loved ones passing from suicide, free refreshments, various community outreach exhibits, including information on becoming a Gatekeeper, and a time of bonding with other survivors of suicide who feel the same pain and feelings of loss.

The event is still looking for sponsors, and there are many levels available. Walkers can show up the day of the walk and register their team that day. In addition, an accounting staff will be available to take donations at the walk. There is no registration fee to walk.

Vickie Fisher, co-chairman, said, "If you don’t want to walk, come and listen to the speakers, have some refreshments and see what our walk is all about. The walk is rain or shine, and of course we are hoping for a beautiful day of sunshine but if not, we will still go forward with the provisions we have put in place for the possibility of rain."

For more information about the walk, contact Wilkin at 740-294-8496 or kkwilkin61@gmail.com. Signs will be posted the day of the walk from the Newcomerstown exit on I-77, directing participants to Lee Stadium.

According to Kristie, Certified Gatekeeper, and facilitator of local Survivor of Suicide Loss Group that helps plan this event, "We are a very active and close group. The members consider themselves to be as much suicide prevention advocates, as they are survivors of a suicide loss."

Pam Leyda, group member, and certified Gatekeeper, goes on to state, "Unfortunately, the group members have watched more and more people attend meetings due to suicide loss in our local counties, and although we want to help survivors cope with their loss, we also want to prevent any other family from going through this type of loss."

The support group meets on the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the ADAHMS Board office at 119 Garland Drive, New Philadelphia, and any survivor of suicide is welcome to attend meetings. Survivors are considered to be family, friends, and co-workers of the person that passed away by suicide. If you would like more information on the group, call the ADAMHS Board at 330-364-6488 or contact Kristie directly at 740-294-8496.

A special event benefiting the Walk will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Texas Roadhouse. If you show the staff at Texas Roadhouse a flyer in person or from your phone, 15 percent of the total food purchases will be donated to this year’s walk. In addition, there will be a 50/50 and raffles. Those winners will be announced at the walk on 9/23. You do not need to be present to win the 50/50 or raffles.

Kristie closed by saying, "There have been so many suicide losses in our local counties this year. Suicide can be prevented, but many times people feel they can’t reach out for help because of the stigma that surrounds mental illness and suicide. However, depression is considered mental illness, and statistics say one in five people suffer from depression in their life. If you are feeling suicidal, please reach out to someone – there are many local resources you can contact via the ADAMHS Board, and you can also call 1-800-273-TALK, the National Suicide Hotline. In addition, we also offer a QPR Gatekeeper Class which helps individuals recogninize suicidal tendencies, and helps the suicidal person to get the help they need – please email 4suicidelosstusc@gmail.com for information on upcoming classes."

Other members of the planning committee for the walk include: Todd Little, Executive Director of ACE; Karen Stokey, Survivor and Founder of the Suicide Support Group of Tuscarawas/Carroll counties; Mary Ann Otte, Survivor; Dawn Hannahs, Survivor; Lindsey Bryan, Survivor; Pam and Cyril Leyda, Survivors; Brock Mann, Kristie and Jo Proper, Survivors; Melissa Oschsenbein Kalich, Survivor; Debbie Yocum, Survivor; Marcia Trouts and Jamie Chadwick-Walker, ACE interns.