Cassandra Matthews ~ Assistant Editor
The annual Hike for Hope is occurring at the Claytor Nature Center on May 8.
This event is being put on by the University of Lynchburg and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to bring awareness to suicide prevention efforts while raising money for the cause.
To raise money for AFSP, registrants for the hike will share their fundraising page, asking friends, family, and the community to help.
Trish Cerulli has been involved with planning the event. She explained more about the history of the walk, saying, “Analogous to the Out of the Darkness Walks, which commonly occur in the fall timeframe and in more urban centers, the Hike for Hope events occur during the springtime and offer a different setting and capture a different audience to bring awareness and support to the topic [of] suicide prevention. The Bedford Hike for Hope has been around since 2018, happening at other parks in the Bedford area, but organizers stepped away from planning [this event] after things got cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.”
Numerous organizations have pitched in to make the event successful. Staff and volunteers at the Claytor Nature Center, Wellness Center, and Center for Community Engagement are collaborating. While these groups are posting flyers over social media and around town, the streaming platform iHeartMedia has been promoting the event through several broadcastings. Centra Hospital in Bedford is sponsoring the event.
The hike provides an opportunity for individuals to be in nature to reflect, grieve, and support those affected by suicide. There are two trail options available, so all hiking levels are welcome. Anyone can join, regardless of whether or not they have been impacted by suicide.
Cerulli went into detail about what will happen at the hike. “Keeping with the same tradition of advocacy and support, different colored beads are worn by volunteers and hikers to that while out on the trails you can show how you have been affected by suicide in some way, and that you are not alone,” she began. “We think our overall set up will be similar. We will have two trail options, one being the accessible multi-use trail and another a more rigorous trail through the woods. Participants will arrive to the Claytor Nature Center, sign in and pick up their t-shirt/socks, then park and wait in the welcome area. There will be tables set up from the Counselling Center, Centra Hospital, Bedford Rotary Club, iHeartMedia, Out of the Darkness Walk, and Claytor Nature Center. When the hike kicks off, the participants will head out on the trails and be out hiking for approximately an hour. The trails will finish in the gardens of the Cloverlea Farmhouse, with areas for snacks and water, as well as a table for reflection and memory.”
Marie Taylor is a co-organizer for the event, and has had personal experiences surrounding suicide. “It means a lot to me, and others, to have this community support,” she said. “I hope to see people gather and enjoy the presence of support from everyone at this event. I want to see people know that they are not alone, and that they literally have a community supporting them, and organizations who care for them and can provide help. I want to see this event grow and spread the word of the Hike, the Walk out of the Darkness (held in Lynchburg), and AFSP in general.”
Cerulli added, “Even if this year’s turnout is modest, we hope that this event will turn into a successful annual event that serves as a resource for the Roanoke-Lynchburg community for suicide prevention. By being sponsored and planned by the University of Lynchburg, we can help break down the stigma about suicide for our students and the wider community, helping them feel supported and heard, whether they are struggling or greiving, or both.”
The fundraising page can be found at https://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.team&teamID=267709.