NOLA Out of Darkness Walk raises awareness, allows pause for remembrance

Alexis Topel, Staff Writer

The city of New Orleans gathered together at 10 a.m. on Saturday in Audubon Park to honor loved ones that were victims of suicide. 

The New Orleans Out of the Darkness walk is sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and raised money for research on suicide prevention. The AFSP began the Out of Darkness Community Walks in 2004 with 24 communities and 4000 walkers but has since grown to have 350 community walks and over 200,000 walkers in the past 11 years.

Event registration began at 9 a.m. and the walk kicked off at 10 a.m. The event began at the pavilion at Audubon on the north side of Magazine Street. Before the walk started, members of AFSP and members of the different walking teams stood up to share their personal connection to the cause and share a little about the person they were walking for.

“They were so open to the crowd, giving out contact information in case anyone, anyone at all, needed to talk,” sophomore Meghan Marks said. “Their mourning ignited their spirit to appreciate every fleeting moment of life and to open themselves up completely to the living. I cannot imagine a community where all people are so open and willing to give, even giving something free, like time.”

After the speeches, an AFSP official stood on stage and read the list of names that the community walk was dedicated for. She encouraged the walkers of each person to take time to get a flower petal and place it in the pond once their loved one’s name was called. After they placed the petals in the water, they began walking the path around Audubon.

The entire audience was silent and transfixed on the official as each name was called. The crowd was moved by the opening ceremony and many people began tearing up and hugging one another. After the final name was read, the members of the crowd who had not started walking all moved toward the path.

One of the teams was dedicated to Mary Travis, a Tulane student and a member of Chi Omega Sorority who passed away last year. The Loving Mary Travis team had the largest group of supporters at the walk and was the top fundraising team overall. 

“Mary and her story touched a lot of lives in the Tulane community,” Marks said. “Members of Tulane sororities were all there walking together and sharing stories and simply appreciating the moment. It’s so sad that this comes from something so tragic, but I’m glad those touched by Mary Travis and her story can come together and make this impact in our community.”

Late Tulane students Daniel Rupert and Ryan MacKenzie were honored on Saturday as well. Overall the walk raised over $45,000 for suicide prevention research.