By Shannon Watkins
After she lost her only child, a son, to suicide six years ago, Denise Hancock found herself without local resources to turn to.
“I had to go to Roanoke for a support group,” she noted. “There’s not a lot out here in the valley.”
The group was part of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Based out of New York, the organization seeks to raise awareness about suicide and help prevent them. They oversee the Out of the Darkness community walks across the country, which help generate funds for their research and education programs.
After participating in the Roanoke Out of the Darkness walk, Hancock decided to start one closer to home. “I thought something needed to happen,” she says.
A social worker, Hancock was helping other people long before she lost her son. Starting the local Out of the Darkness walk was a natural outgrowth of her experience and desire to make a difference.
This is the third year of the local walk, says Hancock. “The response has been pretty good. Every year it grows a little more,” see said, noting that often the reason for the response is tragedy. In five years, she predicts, “I think it’ll grow, unfortunately.”
The Out of the Darkness Walk will take place at Bisset Park in Radford on August 24, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., with check-in from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Online registration will officially close at noon the Friday before, but last-minute participants can register in person at the event. Participants registering online can do so at the main AFSP’s website, http://www.afsp.org/. They will then be able to start their own fundraising pledge webpage.
Donations will be accepted until the end of 2013. The local walk aims to hit at least the $5,000 mark in funds raised. Per Hancock, the organization is a charity and donations are tax-deductible.
This year, however, there’s something more.
“We’re doing a support group locally for people that need it,” says Hancock. “You can find those in Roanoke and Blacksburg, but not as much in the Pulaski area. We’re trying to bring awareness down here.”
The group will have its first meeting on March 26 from 6:30 p.m – 8 p.m. at the Charles & Ona B. Free Memorial Library in Dublin. The group will subsequently meet at the same place every last Tuesday of the month.
Hancock works with them to organize the walks locally and sends funds from them back to AFSP headquarters, which then sends some back to benefit the local group.
The group will use funds to send materials on suicide prevention to schools and libraries.
The group’s support is not limited to those who have dealt with loss from suicide alone. People coping with life after the death of a loved one due to cancer, accident, or other trauma, and those dealing with life after a catastrophic change to a loved one though paralysis, brain damage, major illness, or other crisis are welcome as well.
“I had a lot of family support,” Hancock recalls of her own difficult time. “I think the support group in Roanoke helped a lot. That’s why I want to get this group started here.”
For more information, contact Denise Hancock at 200-5782