A walk to remember those lost to suicide | RecordCourier.com

A walk to remember those lost to suicide

by Aurora Sain
5-year-old J.T. Stansbury draws a happy face inside a heart on a poster in memory of WNC professor Marilee Swirczek Saturday during 'Walk in Memory-Walk in Hope.'
Brad Coman |

The 10th annual Walk in Memory, Walk for Hope held a much deeper meaning for a lot of the participants.

The remembrance walk is put on by the Suicide Prevention Network, and is a way for people to remember those lost to suicide and promote awareness.

This year’s walk was Debbie Kelnhofer’s fourth time participating after losing her son, Ty, to suicide in 2011.

“It has created a part in me where I want to help other people and tell them that there is hope, there is always hope,” said Kelnhofer.

After dealing with a foggy three years following Ty’s death, Kelnhofer said that it has ultimately been something that brought everyone together.

“It knit a broken family back together,” said Kelnhofer.

The walk started at 9 a.m. with an opening ceremony before walkers and people participating in Andy’s Ride began their journey.

Executive Director Debbie Posnien was emotional during the opening, saying that it warmed her heart to see so many people participating in the day.

“Suicide affects us in many different ways,” said Posnien.

One of the featured speakers was Michael Sheldrew who spoke about surviving a suicide attempt and how it has affected him since.

“I wish I had told someone what I was going through,” said Sheldrew.

Keith Cole was present with his AP psychology class from Douglas High School, Psi Mu Sigma, who are focusing this year on suicide prevention.

“They will come to this an d then they will go to the different classes at the high school and promote suicide awareness and prevention,” said Cole.

This was the first year for Andy’s Ride, which was created in memory of Andy Getas who loved cycling.

Around 18 people signed up to do the 15-mile bike route, a big success in creator Ron Sanchez’s eyes.

“We didn’t know what people would want. We’ll know next year to see if its too much or too little,’ said Sanchez.

For some people, the event was more in general for the loss of people who served in the armed forces.

“I’m a veteran and I’ve seen people go down that path,” said Vietnam War veteran Rick Kane.

Carl Schnock was present with information about the organization Welcome All Veterans Everywhere.

Schnock said that the group focuses on helping veterans with everyday tasks like getting to the grocery store or doctors appointments.

A July 2016 study by the Department of Veterans Affairs said that about 20 veterans commit suicide everyday.

Schnock said it is important that W.A.V.E. and suicide prevention work together since the problem is so prevalent in the military community.

W.A.V.E. is funded entirely by individuals and they rely on the community to help with their needs.

If you would like to get involved or donate, contact Schnock at 781-4849.

People came from all over to participate in the event and there were representatives from all age groups.

“This day means so much to all of us,” said Program Coordinator Alisa Merino. “You guys are all a part of that message.”