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Walk spreads a message of HOPE

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | September 8, 2022 1:00 AM

Tucked inside the bright blue wristband is a lifeline.

Printed on the outside is the message: Hold on, pain ends. Inside, the crisis text line for the Mental Health Center of America is embossed inside the wristband.

"These are great things to keep with you and pass out throughout the year," said Walk for HOPE organizer Jennifer Wyman, who lost her daughter Madi to suicide. "If you run into anybody that might be struggling, give one to them."

The wristbands were handed out to the several hundred participants who walked across the Long Bridge on Sunday to raise awareness about suicide prevention and to raise money for Underground Kindness to fund speakers and programs at local schools.

Also handed out were powder blue balloons and flat river rocks — both to write messages of hope, positive affirmations or the name of a loved one lost to suicide — were handed out at Sunday's seventh annual Walk for HOPE (Hold On Pain Ends).

The rocks could also be used to jot a negative thought that could be tossed as they crossed the bridge, Wyman said.

"Sometimes, maybe we need to let go of something that's been bothering us and weighing our hearts down. So write that negative thought down and maybe when you walk across the bridge, you feel the time is right and you drop it over the edge," she added, before joking to make sure there no boats below when they did. "But you can release that thought and carry on and not feel weighed down by that anymore."

Those taking part in the walk said they wanted to send a message of support both to those struggling and the group's message of kindness and compassion.

Among them were family members of Madi Wyman, who was 14 when she died. A kind, compassionate teen, they said there were no signs she was considering suicide. They recalled their own experiences with depression and loss — or that of those close to them.

"There's just so much peer pressure, bullying and now they have this as a tool," the family member said, holding up his cellphone. "They have Facebook and everything else. I think that's probably the hardest thing."

Spreading a message of peace and love was why he decided to take part in the walk, Todd Bradshaw said.

"I just want to show support in the community and make sure people know that hope is found in Jesus Christ," he said. "That's it, connecting with each other and with God. That's pretty much it."

Like Bradshaw, Michelle Glazer said she also wanted to let those struggling know there is someone there for them. She said she likes the fact that the walk raises money to bring speakers to local schools to help youth who are struggling.

"This is a really good cause and I love good causes," said Glazer, who recently moved to the are. "I want to get out there so people can see [the walk] and be aware that there's help if they're struggling."

Kelly Thompson, one of the new owners of Kokanee Coffee, said the local coffee shop has partnered with the Wyman family for several years on the walk.

"We just feel like there's a lot of pain, and a lot of absence of Jesus," Thompson said. "We have obviously at Kokanee Coffee, a lot of younger people that who work with us and they face a lot of the same trials that Jennifer's daughter did. And we really want to just come and support them, you know, within Kokanee but also for a cause like this, too."

Events such as the Walk for HOPE — with hundreds of people walking across the Long Bridge in a highly visible area, help call attention to the cause, she said.

"I think it just sparks hope," Thompson added. "I think it just lets people know that you don't have to be alone. You don't have to go through something difficult alone."

Many people in the community know someone who was lost to suicide or attempted suicide, she said.

"We all have that regret of what could we have done differently? And I think just walking and doing a public event like this, just maybe it would just spark something in someone to say, you know, maybe I need to call that person or maybe I need to pray for that person. Or maybe I need to just reach out."

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(Photo by CAROLINE LOBSINGER)

A few of the several hundred participants who took part in the Walk for HOPE on Sunday. Held right before the start of school, the walk aims to raise awareness about suicide prevention.

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(Photo by CAROLINE LOBSINGER)

Walk for HOPE participants walk across the Long Bridge on Sunday.

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(Photo by CAROLINE LOBSINGER)

Participants in Walk for HOPE take off from Dog Beach.

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(Photo by CAROLINE LOBSINGER)

A few participants pray before the start of Sunday's Walk for HOPE.

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(Photo by CAROLINE LOBSINGER)

A message of hope was created using rocks found at Dog Beach.

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(Photo by CAROLINE LOBSINGER)

A balloon floats away after being released by a participant at Sunday's Walk for HOPE. The annual event raises awareness for suicide prevention.

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(Photo by CAROLINE LOBSINGER)

One of the signs placed along the Long Bridge walking bridge during Sunday's Walk for HOPE.

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(Photo by CAROLINE LOBSINGER)

A youngster holds a balloon as she walks across the Long Bridge during Sunday's Walk for HOPE.

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(Photo by CAROLINE LOBSINGER)

Two participants — and their canine companion — rest at an after-walk barbecue after Sunday's Walk for HOPE.

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(Photo by CAROLINE LOBSINGER)

Organizers man the grill at Sunday's Walk for HOPE barbecue.

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(Photo by CAROLINE LOBSINGER)

One of the signs placed along the Long Bridge walking bridge during Sunday's Walk for HOPE.

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(Photo by CAROLINE LOBSINGER)

One of the signs placed along the Long Bridge walking bridge during Sunday's Walk for HOPE.

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(Photo by CAROLINE LOBSINGER)

One of the signs placed along the Long Bridge walking bridge during Sunday's Walk for HOPE.

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