VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) -- 2,300 children and adults are joining hand-in-hand to help prevent suicides.
They are walking 3.1 miles for the Out of the Darkness Walk. The walk raises money for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.
“We will end suicide someday,” said Eric Peterson, a board member of the ASFP Virginia Chapter.
In the crowd, 15-year-old Malique Hawkins, raised $150 to donate to the foundation.
“Someone has to do something about it, someone has to make that change. So, I figure why not me?” he said. This teenager spends time making a nation-wide clothing line called "The Movement."
He said the shirts hold positive messages including anti-bullying and suicide prevention.
“Like, I’ve seen it because I’m a high schooler, and most high schoolers see people getting bullied or see people going through the day crying or maybe they’re sad in the hallways,” said Malique.
Research shows, depression is a leading cause of suicide.
“We can make our community suicide safe, just like with CPR,” said Eric.
AFSP uses the funds for new research, educational programs, and support for survivors of suicide loss.
Eric said, “As a survivor, I wish I didn’t have to be part of it, but now that I know how important this is. It is very moving, it is very uplifting. It gives me hope that people really care about this issue.”
Through this 13th annual walk, more than $52,000 were raised for the foundation. Still, each year the walkers remember the loss of loved ones to suicide.
“My grandfather committed suicide many years ago when I was an undergraduate student at Norfolk State University,” said walk participant Lakeisha Hawkins.
“It’s really close to our hearts,” said Deborah Piper who also walked in the 5K. She said she lost her mother and cousin to suicide. "It's that connection within that community that's really going to make a difference," said Deborah.
Every mile is a reminder that prevention is key.
“It only takes one person,” said Melanie Varady, Senior Director of the AFSP Eastern Division. Click here to learn the symptoms of depression or a mental health crisis.