Up to 1,400 walkers gathered in the dark early hours in Mountmellick on May 9, for the fifth Laois Darkness into Light walk, for suicide counselling service Pieta House.
Despite the big crowd, up 75 percent from last year, the event went without a hitch, with rain holding off and extra volunteers on board.
John Nelson started the walk in Laois with wife Susan in 2010, seeing it grow yearly.
“We were overwhelmed by the turnout. Every year it gets bigger. Most are now from outside Mountmellick,” he said.
A zumba warm-up and music at the candlit Mountmellick GAA grounds made sure everyone was wide awake.
At 4.30am newly crowned Laois Rose Ailbhe Culleton cut the ribbon and a stream of yellow t-shirted participants took off with a cheer around the town, returning as dawn broke for soup, refreshments and to write their messages to loved ones lost to suicide.
“It was very emotional this year. Some come to run, but many come as part of their grieving process,” said John.
Many Cycle into Suicide participants, in Laois overnight, also took part.
With money still coming in, the total raised is expected to well exceed last year’s of €17,000, paying for professional counselling for anyone with thoughts of suicide, at Pieta Houses around Ireland.
John thanked his committee, volunteers, local businesses, civil defence, zumba teacher Louise, DJ Danny, and photographers for support.
“Our biggest thank you is to the people of Laois who have made this the amazing event it has become,” he said.