With Every Step: Bringing suicide, depression and mental illness ‘Out of the Darkness’

On June 28, a mere 4 weeks away, I’ll be walking with my Team Chenango teammates in the American Society for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Overnight. This marks the 4th year we’ve participated in this 18-mile dusk ‘til dawn walk to raise money and support AFSP’s suicide prevention and awareness efforts.

As we gear up for Philadelphia, where this year’s event will take place, my teammates and I are facing some challenges. The training miles aren’t adding up as fast as we need them to. Nor are we making enough progress toward our fundraising goal.

Typically we raise the vast majority of our goal with two events: a 5K in October and our annual golf tournament in May. But with less than a month to go, I’m sorry to say we’re still about $2,100 away from the absolute minimum our team needs to walk.

I lamented about this to my friend Danielle earlier this week. Danielle, who lost her father to suicide 13 years ago, is the reason I became involved with this cause several years ago. She’s our team captain and, in so many ways, the heart of Team Chenango.

Her response made me take a moment to reflect. Both on what we put into this walk every year, and why we do it. I thought I’d share.

Every year it comes down to the two big fundraisers that we put together and then the walk. And every year, it gets harder and harder. You know how it is. Life gets in the way sometimes. Every year, I wonder why I put myself through all of the aggravation. Then I stop to think about my dad.

Danielle's father, Dan Marshman

Danielle’s father, Dan Marshman

Put simply – he was and is my hero. I love him with all of my heart. And I know there are a lot of people in our community who felt a strong connection with him as well.

When I stop to think about what he must have felt in the few weeks and months leading up to his death, I just CANNOT imagine the pain he was in.

As I complain about how hard it is to put this together, I think about him and I realize that the purpose is to prevent others from EVER having to go through this again.

It has been 13 years since Dad died by suicide from a disease that can be prevented if we could just start talking about it! This walk is so well named, because we need to bring depression, mental illness and suicide “Out of the Darkness”.

Thank you, Danielle, for that reminder.

I started stepping up my training walks as of yesterday, because there is no way I’m going to let Danielle and the rest of our team down. This is too important of a cause.

But we’re going to need your help as well. Any amount you give will get us that much closer to our goal. That much closer to Philadelphia. That much closer to bringing depression, mental illness and suicide Out of the Darkness.

Thank you in advance for your support of this incredibly important cause.

To Donate:

Visit www.theovernight.org and search for Team Chenango. This will bring up a list of team members and how close they are to making their goal.

– or – 

Select a Team Chenango member and make a donation through their donor page:

Melissa Stagnaro

Danielle Marshman

Maggie Dorsey

David Emerson

Steven Dykeman  (Goal reached!)

Michelle Hamlett (Goal reached!)

Teresa Hollister (Goal reached!)

Brian Meade (Goal reached!)

– or – 

You can send your donation (checks made payable to Team Chenango) to P.O. Box 863, Oxford NY 13830.

On behalf of all of Team Chenango, THANK YOU.


With Every Step: Why I walk to raise money for suicide prevention and awareness

Danielle and I before the start of the 2013 Overnight in Washington DC.

Danielle and I before the start of the 2013 Overnight in Washington DC.

Four years ago, I took a walk that changed my life.

My friend Danielle Marshman was training for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Overnight, an 18-mile dust ‘til dawn walk for suicide prevention and awareness. I’d been trying to
interview her about the walk, but had difficulty finding a time to connect. So I laced up my sneakers and accompanied her on a 6-mile training walk.

This photo was taken just after Danielle finished her first Overnight in Boston. Her mom surprised her at the finish line.

This photo was taken just after Danielle finished her first Overnight in Boston. Her mom surprised her at the finish line.

The cause was one that hit incredibly close to home for Danielle. Her father, a well- respected member of the local agriculture and business community, had taken his own life ten years earlier. During our walk, she told me more about her father than she’d ever shared with me before, and how difficult it had been for her to wrap her head around his death.

In the end, it was thanks to AFSP and the resources they provide for survivors of suicide loss that finally helped her start to heal. Part of that healing has been a desire to turn her own experience into helping others. She signed up for that first Overnight believing that with every step and every dollar raised, she was helping spare others from experiencing the same kind of loss.

Danielle walked by herself that year in Boston, but I vowed she’d never have to walk alone again. Her story, coupled with the loss of my life-long friend Jim to suicide, inspired me to get involved as well.

I walk in honor of my friend, Jim Garruto. His death left a hole in my heart that will never heal.

I walk in honor of my friend, Jim Garruto. His death left a hole in my heart that will never heal.

Together with the other members of Team Chenango, we’ve raised upwards of $40,000 for this cause in the last 3 ½ years. We’ve walked an awful lot of miles, too, between training and the Overnights themselves. And we’re not done yet!

As we speak, Team Chenango is gearing up for this year’s walk, which will be held in Philadelphia this June. And we hope we can count on you to help us get there.

On Sunday May 4, we’ll be holding our fourth annual Team Chenango Out of the Darkness Golf Tournament at Blue Stone Golf Club in Oxford, NY. This captain and crew event is designed to not only help us raise money for the AFSP’s suicide prevention efforts, but also to honor the memories of those we’ve lost to suicide and to raise awareness within our own community.

The cost to participate is $55 per golfer ($35 for Blue Stone members) and includes 18 holes of golf, cart rental and lunch. (Lunch is served from noon to 1.) Registration opens at noon, with a shotgun start at 1.

The day will include the “usual” – a putting contest, prizes for longest drive and closest to the pin, a raffle of Chenango-themed baskets, 50/50 raffle, etc. And we top it all of with a Community dinner following golf. Golfers and non-golfers alike are invited to attend. (A free-will donation will be accepted.)

Not a golfer? (Or even if you are!) There are many ways to get involved. Hole sponsorships are just $50. And we are always looking for in-kind donations for the raffle baskets, prizes, goodie bags and the Community Dinner.

To register a team or to discuss sponsorship opportunities, contact either Danielle Marshman (danielle.marshman@gmail.com) or yours truly (stagnaro.melissa@gmail.com). Golfers can also register directly with Blue Stone either in person or by calling (607) 843-8352.

And, last but not least… Team Chenango welcomes all donations. Donate today.

Together, we can see how much difference one night can make. For with each step, and each dollar raised, we support AFSP’s efforts to prevent suicide, increase awareness of the mental illnesses that often lead someone to take their own life and help those left behind, heal.

We hope you’ll join us in supporting this very important cause.

A very weary Team Chenango after completing the 2013 event in DC.

A very weary Team Chenango after completing the 2013 event in DC.