FEARLESS WALK SET FOR SEPT. 15Matt Boster
Posted by: Matt Boster
Date: Aug 22 2018 11:32 AM
CHIPLEY, Fla. – A group of local residents have coordinated a community walk to commemorate Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month, observed nationally in September. The inaugural Fearless Walk of Hope will take place Saturday, September 15, in Chipley.
The event is a labor of love for its organizers, all of whom have lost a loved one to suicide - each who were following a different path in life, a fact the group says highlights suicide as an issue that affects all walks of life. Co-organizers Gina Churchwell and Janine Newman each suffered the loss of a child to suicide in 2014 and 2015, respectfully. Churchwell’s daughter Cassi was a graduate student working on her Master’s Degree.
Newman’s son Logan was a popular 2013 Chipley High School graduate who was an active duty soldier with the U.S. Air Force. From outward appearances, both had a wide-open future ahead. Cassi began struggling with severe depression while still in high school yet still managed to push through, even earning scholarships that helped her graduate with her Bachelor’s Degree. At age 22, she lost her battle, despite efforts from family and friends.
Logan was just 20 when he took his life while stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona where he had a promising career ahead as an Aircraft Electrical and Environmental Specialist. Newman hopes his story will illustrate the need to especially pay attention to the nation’s active and veteran military personnel, as well as first responders, all of whom she says carry an extraordinary burden.
Fellow organizer Jennifer Anderson Losee, lost her daughter Maggie to suicide in 2016, says it’s time for the community to stop discussing mental health and suicide in a whisper, especially in the wake of the suicides at least two other young adults in Holmes and Washington Counties in recent months. “Since Maggie died, I know of at least eight other people who have taken their lives within a 50- mile radius, from a neighbor just five houses from me in Bonifay to Geneva, Alabama, Graceville, Vernon, and Panama City Beach,” said Losee. “My heart breaks every time I hear of another loss, and I feel it’s on the rise in our area.”
The women, along with several others from local peer support group Be Fearless, have resolved to turn their pain into a purpose – and hopefully prevent further losses. “We want to bring hope and healing,” said Losee. “We want to stop the “We want to bring hope and healing,” said Losee. “We want to stop the stigma that surrounds suicide and mental health and hopefully give those who may be struggling the courage to seek help.” The group also hopes to send a message to the community as a whole: Be kind to one another.
“We want to help educate people and urge them to be kinder to each other, to make them realize how their words affect others. Having thoughts of suicide is not a weakness or because someone wants to die. The pain that person feels is simply so overwhelming that they just want to stop hurting any way they can.”
The community is encouraged to participate in the walk by gathering at New Life Fellowship Church, located at 695 5th St. in Chipley, at 2 p.m. Saturday, September 15. The route will take walkers from the church to the courthouse and then to the finish line at the Chipley Police Department. Signs in memory or of encouragement of others are encouraged.
For more information, contact Losee at 850-768-0520. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.