Walking Out of the Darkness
Since 2002, people across the country have put one foot in front of the other, joining the Out of the Darkness Walks to send the message that when it comes to suicide, no one must travel on their journey alone.
Through the Community Walks, Campus Walks, and the annual Overnight Walk, our Walkers start conversations that inspire hope while raising awareness and funds for this important cause.
Walking Through Communities
Across the country, friends, family members, neighbors, and coworkers walk side by side, showing their support for each other as loss survivors, those who struggle, and in memory of those we’ve lost. The Community Walks are how many people find their way to AFSP and join a community of individuals who proudly and openly send the message that suicide can no longer exist in the darkness. By walking together, thousands of people each year showcase their resilience while sending a caring message and raising much-needed funds for AFSP initiatives.
This year, the Out of the Darkness Community Walks were recognized by the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum as the #17 Peer-to-Peer Fundraising event, having raised $22.8 million. The Community Walks also reached more diverse communities this past year, including through Puerto Rico’s first in-person Community Walk.
Walking on Campuses
Young people face unique challenges – but are more in touch with their mental health than any previous generation. At campuses across the country, students, families, faculty and staff joined together, encouraging greater openness and ensuring that school communities are prepared to support teens and young adults like never before.
Walking Through the Night
The very first Overnight Walk — AFSP’s annual flagship Walk event, in which thousands of people walk over 16 miles from dusk to dawn in a different host city each year — took place in 2002 in Washington, D.C. At the time, suicide greatly resided in the shadows: T-shirts for The Overnight didn’t even include the word “suicide.”
This year, The Overnight was once again held in Washington, D.C., gathering at the Lincoln Memorial for an event no one will ever forget — and showcasing just how far we’ve come since that first Walk.
Those who join The Overnight dedicate themselves not only to the physical challenge, but to a fundraising requirement of $1,000 or $700 for students, military, and military families. Walkers often join or start teams dedicated to a loved one, or themselves, which provides them the chance to draw attention to the cause and start conversations as they train for the event in unity with others. Our Walkers receive individualized support from our Walker Coaches, who guide them in their efforts leading up to the event.
This year’s Overnight was a unique success, including the participation of a team from the Department of Defense led by Charlene Austin, wife of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, demonstrating their solidarity with our cause.
As always, Overnight participants honored the people they walked for — those lost, those who have struggled, and themselves — by lighting luminaria bags commemorating their support through candles that guide Walkers across the finish line.
Colored Honor Beads worn by Walkers let others know of their personal connection to the cause, encouraging conversation through shared experience.
Praise from Overnight Participants
“Suicide is something I struggle with personally. I love the sense of community and the lack of judgement found at The Overnight. It’s always a beautiful and embracing event.”
“It’s so special to be alongside so many people who resonate with my loss, and to feel a sense of hope that suicide can be prevented. Being involved with The Overnight is something I can do, despite feeling powerless in preventing my daughter’s suicide.”
“What do I love about The Overnight? The people! The size of the crowd. The variety of ages and races and personalities. Seeing all the Honor Beads. Hugging strangers. Holding hands and crying with strangers. The different kinds of energy of it all. I have tears in my eyes as I type this!”
“There was so much support this year, from people on the route encouraging us, to the pit stops and volunteers cheering us on. Even the people who lived in the neighborhoods came out and supported.”
“The Overnight is so healing. You will feel closer to people you have never met than some people you've known your entire life.”
“It’s a night of sharing, healing, and being with people who understand every emotion you’re feeling! There is nothing like The Overnight!”
Raising Funds in Creative Ways
Chapter and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Fundraisers are two of the most impactful ways that volunteers support AFSP in its mission to save lives. These fundraising events — ranging from birthdays and virtual livestreams, to endurance events like marathons and bike-a-thons — help to raise awareness and much-needed funds for our efforts.
This past year alone, DIY participants raised $3.2 million through over 500 campaigns, and in the process helped to forge lifelong connections among those in their local communities who have been affected by suicide.