The first ever Darkness into Light walk in Laois which took place early was a resounding success according to the organisers.
More than 350 men, women and children gathered in candlelight at Mountmellick GAA pitch to walk or run the 5km route through the town centre, returning as dawn broke. It was one of fourteen similar events across Ireland, all to raise funds for the suicide prevention service, Pieta House, who are considering opening an outreach centre in the Midlands. Walking from the darkness into light symbolises in a real way the help they give to people on the brink of suicide.
The local commmittee headed by Susan and John Nelson had lit candles spelling out the word hope, and as music played they took late registrations and handed out bright yellow t-shirts to the hundreds of participants.
Susan was bowled over by the response for their first walk.
“We are absolutely delighted, chuffed, we really weren’t expecting that number for the first one, and for a small town,” she said.
Ashling Freeman attended the walk on behalf of her mother Joan, the founder of Pieta House. With no celebrity available to start the walk, dozens of local children released balloons before breaking into an enthusiastic run down Acragar road.
“One boy only about nine years old let his balloon go and took off and ran the whole way, I have no idea who he was. I couldn’t get over the amount of teenagers from Mountmellick Community School too. I rang the school to tell them what an absolute credit they were to them,” Susan said.
About half of the participants ran the distance, and first back was Richie Westman.
As refreshments were enjoyed afterwards, everyone had a chance to write a personal message on a Banner of Hope, which is displayed this week in SuperValu, and next week in The Druid.
“A big thank you to Gerry Mulvaney, Val and Trevor Jones, Kevin Jones, Jackey Bernie and Marina Dunnem, a great committee. Without them it wouldn’t have run as smoothly on the night,” said Susan who is already planning for next year.
“We hope each person will bring someone with them next year. It’s for the whole of Laois, so hopefully word will spread,” she said.