SVHS’s Out of the Darkness Campus Walk for suicide awareness is May 5

‘That's why I think it's important to raise awareness. Because you might not always see it’


STILLMAN VALLEY — Stillman Valley High School will host an Out of the Darkness Campus Walk to raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on Sunday, May 5. All proceeds from the walk will go to the AFSP for suicide research and support for families affected by suicide. 

The three-mile walk is free to anyone who wants to sign up. Those interested in walking or volunteering at the event can email SVHS Social Worker/Counselor Hannah Feldhaus at Registration begins at 1 p.m. Speakers and the walk’s start will take place at 2 p.m. and the event closes at 4 p.m. If they want, participants can raise $100 for the walk to earn a t-shirt. 

“It's for awareness and fundraising,” Feldhaus said. “We'll have signs and face painting and those types of things. It's a fun event. We’ll walk all around Stillman Valley. We have community sponsors. We're looking for walkers and volunteers. We're going to need all the help we can get.”

The walk is in its third year at SVHS. It was started by SVHS alumni Lillie Doss during her senior year. Doss lost her father to suicide when she was younger and started the event to help with prevention and make a difference. She remains involved with the event after graduating. 

The event is organized by SVHS’s Take Action League, which is an anti-bullying and suicide prevention student group on campus. The group’s other work includes spreading kindness around the school, putting up signs and banners including a poster board of positive things, putting notes on students’ lockers during high-stress weeks such as during finals, fundraising and teambuilding, and raising awareness for Mental Health Awareness Month in May.

The AFSP is a national organization, Feldhaus said. 

“They raise money and do a lot of fundraising for research into why suicide is so prevalent,” Feldhaus said. “They provide a lot of support for families who have lost somebody to suicide and they give a lot of education. We've had them come into the school to give presentations on mental health to our students. Their campus walks are one of the ways that they raise funds.”

Participants in the walk who have lost family members to suicide, have struggled with suicidal thoughts, or consider themselves to be allies to the cause can wear colored “honor beads” to represent their experience, Feldhaus said.

“It's a way to help us to know the impact that we're making as far as who's showing up,” Feldhaus said. “The goal of it is to raise awareness, which is what Take Action League is for. We want to raise as much awareness on campus as we can.”

Feldhaus has a masters in social work and is a licensed clinical social worker. She wants students and the community to know that there are people like her and other mental health resources in the area that are more than willing to help people that are experiencing suicidal thoughts. The May 5 walk will help to raise that awareness.

“I want people to learn from this that suicide can impact anyone's life,” Feldhaus said. “It's a very fortunate thing when somebody doesn't have a personal connection to suicide. But unfortunately, it does happen and can happen to anybody. It's usually not something that people think about until they're affected by it personally. That happens very quickly and tragically in most cases. It's not something you can prepare for. You're never ready to lose somebody. But it's not something you can ignore. It can happen at any time or moment. Somebody can start struggling with depression, and they might not even say anything about it and you can't see it. That's why I think it's important to raise awareness. Because you might not always see it. That's the whole point of this event is to try to raise awareness and let people know that if that struggle does come up, that they're not alone and there is help out there.”

The Out of the Darkness Campus Walk’s sponsors include Stillman Bank, the Winnebago landfill, UW Health, Royal Blue General Store, Paradise Nutrition and Byron Bank. Royal Blue General Store will be donating 10 percent of its profits on the day of the walk to the fundraiser. Paradise Nutrition will be donating raffle items.

“We've had a really good turnout from local businesses with support,” Feldhaus said. “Even if it's not monetary support, we've had places put up posters or allow our team to come in and hang things up and do awareness.”