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Out Of The Darkness Walk shines light on suicide prevention

Out Of The Darkness Walk shines light on suicide prevention

Lisa deShazo's older brother, Pete DiSantis, had a saying about paying it forward.

"Every day he would try to do one good deed a day. And every time he would do that deed, he would say, 'That's my one,'" she said. 

When she walks as part of the Out of the Darkness Walk - Hagerstown on Saturday, Oct. 13, at City Park in Hagerstown, she will be walking in memory of her brother who died by suicide.

And she knows, she said, Pete would be proud. 

"I can just picture him saying 'That's my one,'" she said. "I knew you could do it."

Kayla Young, Out of the Darkness Walk Hagerstown co-chairwoman, said Hagerstown event is one of hundreds of Out of the Darkness walks throughout the United States hosted by American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The event is from 8:30 a.m. to noon. The walk starts at 10 a.m. from City Park's Peter Buys Bandshell, goes through downtown and returns the bandshell; it's about a 3-mile walk. A small gathering will then take place at the end. Several organizations will be on hand with information about mental health assistance. 

During the Out of the Darkness walk, there will be an honor-bead ceremony. Each participant will be given a different colored bead to represent their connection to a person who died of suicide. Young said hers will be red to represent that she lost a spouse or partner; white is for a child; gold is a parent; orange is a sibling; purple is a relative or friend; silver, first responder/military; green, struggled personally; blue to support the cause; and teal for friends and family of someone who struggles.

Last year, Young said Out of the Darkness had 972 registered walkers, who come from a variety of backgrounds.

"Unfortunately, most of the people who do participate have already lost someone to suicide," she said. "Many of the other people know someone who is struggling, or they are struggling themselves with mental health. Other community organizations or community members who support the cause of mental health awareness and suicide prevention."

New this year, Out of the Darkness has partnered with Hager Rocks to paint rocks with inspirational messages that will be left for others to find.

"When the walkers leave, they can pick up a rock and hide it in the future," she said. "Or they can keep ahold of it as a reminder in the future of a message of hope."

Last year's event raised more than $72,000. 

"The Out of the Darkness Walks are the largest form of fundraising for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention," she said. "That money goes toward research, advocacy, educational programs and outreach programs."

Although Out of the Darkness encourages fundraising, Young said participants can still walk for free; however, online registration is strongly encouraged.

Young, who has participated before, remembered the feeling of walking with the group.

"It's comforting to know that you're not walking alone, whether it be for in remembrance of someone you lost or maybe you struggle personally," Young said. "Just to see that group of people come together, we're all there to support the same cause. That is what is important. And it's comforting to know they're not alone in your loss, and you're not alone in your personal struggle."

The loss of a brother

Pete died at the age of 46 in August of 2017, and deShazo of Keedysville said she had seen the walk that same year.

"It was pretty early on in my brother's passing and I wasn't ready to join the walk at that point," she said. "I thought, 'Next year I'm going to do this.'"

And true to her word, deShazo, along with her younger brother, Anthony DiSantis, got together a team named Pete's Painting Painting the Heaven. The name of the team shares the name of her brother's business. Pete's Painting. There's 15 people on the team. 

"We got a lot of support from friends and family and from the community," she said. 

Pete was two years older than deShazo. They grew up together in New Jersey.

"He had some struggles early on in life with addiction. He came through all of that clean and sober for eight years. He had opened up Pete's Painting, and it was successful," she said. "Through that he decided he would give back to the community. He was always doing things to give back. That was partly why I wanted to do this. This would be something he would have really, really been proud of."

She said Pete was "really funny."

"He was always the life of the party," she said. "He was the one who always made everyone laugh. He was just a great guy, in general."

A few days before the event, deShazo said that her team has raised $2,300 so far. They also made T-shirts as a fundraiser, which once that money is tallied, it will increase the bottom line. So far, they are the top team in fundraising, according to Young.

"In raising money, I'm hoping that we're helping others not have to go through what we've been through," she said. "Maybe help with people recognizing signs who need help."

Top photo: Walkers during the 2015 Out of the Darkness Walk at City Park. The walk helps to raise awareness of suicide prevention. (Herald-Mail file photo)

If you go ...

WHAT: 2018 Hagerstown Out of the Darkness Walk
WHEN: 8:30 a.m. to noon; walk, 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 13
WHERE: Hagerstown City Park, 501 Virginia Ave. Hagerstown
COST: Free registration and no minimum amount of money needs to be raised, although each walker is encouraged to set a goal of $150 or more 
CONTACT: Click here to register.

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