Home • Burlington County News BurlCo hosts sixth annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk

BurlCo hosts sixth annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk

Annual event raises funds for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention hosts community walks across the country each year to raise money for its various programs and help spread awareness of mental illness.

Kyra Berry, chairperson for the Burlington County Out of the Darkness Community Walk, knows about the struggles of suicide-related mental illness. She organized the annual walk six years ago while still in high school, after years of struggling with depression. She feels fortunate to have a support group that inspired her to help others.

“I was diagnosed with depression when I was 13 and I struggled a lot with my mental illness over the years,” Berry recalled. “But I was lucky enough to have the support of family, friends and therapists that were able to help me get better. 

“After I was able to get to feeling better, I wanted to be able to give back to my community that had supported and uplifted me during my times of struggle but also help spread awareness about mental-health issues, because it’s something that I felt like didn’t get talked about enough as it should.”

After COVID restrictions in 2020, the Out of the Darkness Burlington County Walk returned in grand fashion on Oct. 16, with increased attendance and the most funds donated in the event’s   short six year history. While donations can still be made until the end of the calendar year, the return of the in person walk to Laurel Acres Park in Mount Laurel surpassed a $50,000 fundraising goal.

“We had over 400 people come out on Saturday, which is as many, if not more, than we had in 2019, which was previously our largest event so far,” Berry said. “In terms of fundraising, this has also been our most successful year. In the past we’ve usually reached around $40,000 or $45,000 … so we’re pretty excited with those numbers.”

In attendance for this year’s event were Mount Laurel Mayor Stephen Steglik and fellow members of township council, who presented Berry with both a proclamation citing September as Suicide Prevention Month and a commendation recognizing her efforts with the walk. 

“People that have gone before us leave a whole lot of hurt and a whole lot of love behind, and we’re here with them, while some of us that are here today are still suffering too,” Steglik said. “Nobody’s alone in this fight; it’s so important to remember that there’s a support group with you at all times.” 

After nearly two years of COVID, Berry stressed the importance of both the walk and the township’s willingness to address mental illness.

“I think it’s a really big deal; it speaks towards the way that our current elected officials are prioritizing mental health in our community, which really means a lot to me and many others,” Berry said. 

“People have been confronted in a very real way over the last year and a half with mental health, as a complication of being isolated and all our personal and professional lives being disrupted like they have been,” she added. “That’s really contributed to some people’s struggles,  while also leading others to have struggles that maybe hadn’t had any before that.” 

To support the suicide foundation and the Burlington County walk, go to https://supporting.afsp.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=7661.

Exit mobile version