What started seven years ago as a Gold Award project for Kyra Berry — the highest Scouts honor – has become a community event that continues to grow.
The chairperson for the Burlington County Out of the Darkness Community Walk, Berry started the event as a high-school junior after her own struggles with depression, diagnosed when she was 13. Berry said she owes plenty to her friends, family and others who supported her then and inspired her to raise awareness and funds for other sufferers in the county.
“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,” Berry said. “It’s something that I felt like didn’t get talked about enough as it should.”
Now in its seventh year, the Oct. 15 walk drew more than 300 participants from 40 teams to the township’s Laurel Acres Park for a morning event that signaled remembrance, hope and support. According to Berry, this year’s version had the most community partners in the county and the most funds for a single year in its history, both signs that the event is still growing and important as ever.
“We did a lot more broad outreach this year in terms of advertising to make sure we got the word out across all of Burlington County,” Berry explained. “Our fundraising goal was $60,000, and while we’re still waiting on some more numbers and fundraising goes on until the end of the year, we’re at over $52,000 right now, which is the most we’ve raised in a single year”.
Over the years, Berry’s work as chairperson of the county walk has generated more than $260,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, an eye-opener for someone who first started the project as a teen..
“It’s such a rewarding feeling to look at it and think that I’ve made an impact on the community,” she noted. “But really, I feel like the community’s had an equal, if not greater, impact on me. Hearing the stories from people that have come out over the years and donated not just money, but also their time and energy, into such a worthwhile cause is overwhelming in the best way.”
Fundraising is still underway and interested residents and businesses can donate at https://supporting.afsp.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=8659.