The difference one night can make

For months Iíve talked about the Out of the Darkness Overnight and last weekend I traveled to New York City to participate in the event.

It was Ė as Iím sure youíll recall from the multitude of blogs, columns and articles Iíve written on the topic Ė an 18-mile dusk Ďtil dawn walk to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Preventionís prevention and awareness efforts.

Well, Iím happy to say, we did it. Every member of Team Chenango completed the full walk.

The night was a whirlwind. And not only because our team captain, Danielle Marshman Williamson, was trying to set a new land speed record. (We crossed the finish line precisely at 2 a.m., a good three hours before the closing ceremony was due to start.) It was so incredibly powerful to be among so many people committed to this important cause.

From the opening ceremony at Cadman Plaza, through the streets of New York and right up to the finish line, we walked for a common purpose Ė to bring suicide and depression out of the darkness. In our hearts we carried memories of the loved ones weíve lost to suicide and all those theyíve left behind.

We wore them, too, around our necks by way of honor beads, the colors of which represented our relationship to the ones we have lost. Danielle wore gold to signify the lost of her father, Dan Marshman. Sandy, white, for her daughter Heather. Her other daughters, Jessica and Kelly, wore orange to signify the loss of a sibling, as did Steve, who lost his brother. Other colors signified the loss of a spouse, or someoneís own struggle against depression and suicide.

Many, like me, wore purple Ė a sign that we have lost friends to suicide. My string of beads was for Jimmy Garruto, who will be forever in my heart and the hearts of all who knew him.

Our shirts, too, bore pictures, names and messages to the friends and families who took their own life. They, along with the beads, were an ever present reminder of why we had undertaken such a challenge. Each of our steps held the promise and hope that our efforts, the awareness and funds we had helped to raise, would stop someone else from ever having to experience a similar loss.

More than 2,000 people participated in this yearís walk, including the 13 members of Team Chenango. Together, we succeeded in raising over $2.5 million. (Iím happy to say Team Chenangoís contribution was close to $19,000!) AFSP will use that money to fund research, treatment, support services and more aimed at preventing suicide and helping people receive treatment for depression and other mental illnesses.

Danielle, David, Maggie, Sandy, Jessica, Kelly, Steve, Michelle, Brian, Theresa, Kim and Rhiannon Ė I was proud to walk alongside each and every one of you. And I hope Iíll get to do the same next year at AFSPís 10th annual Out of the Darkness Overnight in San Francisco.

Thank you again to all those in our community who supported our efforts this year. Together, we helped prove what a difference one night can make.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunmelissa

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