Out of the Darkness Community Walk: Saving lives one step at a time

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PHOTOS BY LIZZIE RIDDER / REPORTER Participants write messages to lost loved ones. The balloons are then released, or sent, as messages to those who’ve died by suicide.

Written by Muleskinner Staff

By LIZZIE RIDDER
Reporter
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — Emotions ran high at this weekend’s Out of the Darkness Community Walk.

PHOTOS BY LIZZIE RIDDER / REPORTER Participants write messages to lost loved ones. The balloons are then released, or sent, as messages to those who’ve died by suicide.
PHOTOS BY LIZZIE RIDDER / REPORTER
Participants write messages to lost loved ones. The balloons are then released, or sent, as messages to those who’ve died by suicide.

Tears were shed, hugs were exchanged and new relationships were built. Members from the community gathered together Sept. 12 to support the walk’s suicide awareness efforts – making up the record-breaking crowd of 215.
“When I went to my first Out of the Darkness Walk, I was overwhelmed with a sense of community,” said April Roller, chairman of the walk. “I made a whole new family that day.”
Losing her husband two years ago to suicide, Roller had two options: shut the world out or speak up. With three growing boys by her side, now fatherless, Roller said she chose to live each day with purpose by not letting her circumstances consume her.
“I’m allowing my loss to improve myself,” Roller said.
The support she experienced at her first walk motivated her to become  involved with suicide awareness campaigns. Her passion and voice for this cause allowed her to gain leadership roles in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and last year, she was invited to host the Out of the Darkness Walk in Warrensburg.
April Roller, chair of the Out of the Darkness Community Walk in Warrensburg, watches with high hopes as her personal words fly higher and higher to her husband by balloon carrier.
April Roller, chair of the Out of the Darkness Community Walk in Warrensburg, watches with high hopes as her personal words fly higher and higher to her husband by balloon carrier.

“I’m going to fight for your loved ones,” Roller said. “If there’s someone else two miles or 2,000 miles away in my situation, I want to be a support. There is no greater honor than being able to say, ‘I’m here for you.’”
Blind Boone Park was beaming with multi-colored beads that hung around the necks of participants. As simple as the plastic spheres may have seemed, the objects were meant for far more than decoration. Referred to as “honor beads,” each color had a unique meaning behind it. Blue beads signified the support of the cause, green beads represented a personal struggle, and other hues showed the specific loss each participant had suffered.
“I like the necklaces and what they stand for – they make the walk more personable,” said Josie DeFeo, a senior exercise science major at UCM. “You can see just how you relate to those around you.”
In identifying with others, unlikely bonds formed in the intimate setting of the park, as participants shared their experiences. No words were needed, as the “honor beads” did the conversing.
“It’s inspiring for me to see the beads so proudly worn,” Roller said. “Volunteers and participants are literally wearing their struggles and losses. That takes such bravery.”
The original fundraising goal was set at $4,000, but the community raised more than $5,000 at the walk. With tired feet and tired hearts, the walk came to a close. However, the work didn’t seem to end there. The fight to save lives and promote suicide awareness continues on.
Multi-colored "honor beads" are used to signify specific loss and struggle of an individual person.
Multi-colored “honor beads” are used to signify specific loss and struggle of an individual person.

“I think that people push the topic of suicide away,” said Brittney Hollon, a sophomore psychology major at UCM. “I think that when people see an entire community coming together, it brings it out of the shadows.”
Currently, Roller is working to push through legislation for mandatory suicide awareness and prevention training in Missouri schools. Tirelessly collaborating with individuals in the AFSP, Roller is attempting to find a connection between suicide prevention training and the number of deaths by suicide. She explains that her motivation for the policy stems from her children.
“I have three little boys, and a child who loses a parent to suicide is three times more likely to do it themselves, so by trying to mandate that type of legislation I was hoping to normalize mental health for my sons because I don’t want my sons to be a statistic,” Roller said. “I don’t want them to be afraid to suffer any type of mental health issue and not be able to talk about it.”
Out of the Darkness Community WalkHer work all started in Warrensburg in 2013, where she was inspired to take a stand, to speak for those who could not. With a genuine desire to see progress, Roller does everything in her power to get the word out, to let all know that it’s okay to not be okay.
If you or a loved one struggles with thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK(8255).
“Don’t be afraid,” Roller said. “You are never alone.”
Out of the Darkness Community Walk