Philadelphia will be one of two cities to host the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Overnight Walk next June.
The Out of the Darkness walk, a 17-mile trek through many of the city’s neighborhoods, last came to Philly in 2014, drawing thousands to the Art Museum. Chicago will also host an overnight walk in 2018. Participants raise money ahead of time, often forming teams to honor someone they’ve lost to suicide. Many wear matching shirts and carry signs to honor them.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) expects the 2018 walk to raise $2.5 million and draw 10,000 participants, the proceeds going to suicide research and prevention programs. According to the AFSP, 44,193 die by suicide each year in America, making it the 10th leading cause of death.
The walk is a long, tiring haul that begins at dusk and often ends late the following morning. People cry and laugh as the miles pass, along with some grimaces from the cramps and blisters. There are aid stations and food stops along the way, places for other family members and friends to come cheer walkers on. The Philadelphia chapter of the AFSP also hosts an annual smaller walk at the Art Museum. That walk is Oct. 1 this year.
In 2014, overnight walkers placed thousands of white luminaria bags on the Art Museum’s steps with messages written to those they’d lost.
Philadelphia’s AFSP will make the official announcement about the overnight walk on Tuesday at a party hosted by city photographer HughE Dillon, a longtime supporter of the organization.
For more information about the AFSP and the organization’s various fund-raisers, visit afsp.org/chapter/afsp-greater-philadelphia/