The College of the Canyons’ football field served as the site of the first annual Santa Clarita Valley Out of the Darkness Campus Walk on Saturday.
Dawnel DeRubeis, walk chair and a volunteer with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, launched the fundraiser to bring families and groups of friends together to help support different programs designed to educate, advocate and foster environments focused on suicide prevention and the different conditions around it.
“It’s ok to cry, ok to hug,” DeRubeis said. “You can laugh if that helps. For some, it’s their first experience in their healing journey. For some, it’s part of their journey. That’s what I was hoping to bring to Santa Clarita, I felt like it was missing (from) our community.”
The walk included 26 teams, which all acknowledged someone who succumbed to or survived suicide, as well as those committed to suicide prevention. With 160 people who altogether participated, they walked around the COC track for 30 minutes as music played.
Lined in a U-shape were tents that belonged to different support groups behind the walk, including the Child & Family Center, Mental Health America and Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services. “The Voice” singer Karli Webster performed during both the walk’s opening and closing ceremonies.
One of the walk’s speakers, Robin Monroe, walked along the track in memory of her son, Jared. She’s since developed the Jared Monroe Foundation that will host its own inaugural gala on May 30, which would have been Jared’s 22nd birthday.
“It’s one thing even if the stigma is out there, this community really comes together for each other,” Monroe said. “That’s something that I love about living here and being able to volunteer in this community.”
DeRubeis said the walk initially had a goal of raising $8,000, but after the walk began, she found out they raised over $11,440.
The walk followed the annual Shine a Light event on May 14, which was also held at COC.
The fundraising website will remain open until June 30. To contribute, visit asp.org/santaclarita.