200 walk for suicide prevention in Waimea

WAIMEA — When Kaylynn Drake stood before a crowd of about 200 at the “Out of the Darkness” suicide prevention walk Saturday morning, she didn’t give a speech.

Instead, the Miss Aloha Ambassador said she wanted to get to know everyone better, and had some questions.

“Please raise your hand if you know of someone, or relative, anyone you were close with, who passed away from suicide,” she asked.

Many hands rose.

“How many of you have lost really close family and friends?”

More hands.

Then, she directed a question to the youth.

“How many of you guys have experienced or witnessed bullying in your schools?”

Again, hands went up.

Her last question was this:

“How many of you guys personally have felt depressed or felt like you were lost?”

Many hands of both youth and adults were raised.

Drake, Kauai’s youth representative for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness walk, paused, then continued.

“I’m honored to help everyone in the community,” she said. “Not only the youth, especially everyone here as well.”

Then, it was time to walk.

Under sunny skies, the crowd took a lap around Waimea Athletic Field, led by Drake and several elected county leaders, including Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.

The morning of activities included a remembrance table, ceremonies and resources to prevent suicide and help people know where to turn for help. A quilt on display had the pictures and names of those who were lost to suicide.

The “Out of the Darkness” walk was the first held in Waimea. It is part of a nationwide fundraiser for AFSP to invest in research, educational programs and public policy, and to support survivors of suicide.

Walkers were treated to drinks, snacks and entertainment.

Carvalho said suicide has caused many families to be broken. Saturday’s walk, he said, was “all about standing strong as a community.”

The goal was to get information to prevent suicide into the community and more importantly, into homes.

“It’s our responsibility to support efforts like this,” he said, wrapping up his talk with three words: “Faith, hope and love.”

Kauai County Councilmember Derek Kawakami said the issue of suicide was near his heart. He lost a brother, Douglas, to suicide in June.

He said Japanese families usually don’t talk about these things, but he realized it was necessary to move forward.

“If I can help somebody or a family and to live life to the fullest and do things that he was never able to do, I feel like I’m honoring him,” Kawakami said.

“I thank you folks for doing this and allowing me to heal with all of you,” he added. “It means the world to my family and myself.”

Vanya Fagasa, co-chairwoman for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Hawaii chapter, wore a shirt that read, “No blame or shame. Just aloha.”

Fagasa said the large crowd raised her spirits and renewed her hope.

“It’s awesome. This was more than what I, in reality, thought we would have,” she said. “The representatives that came, that was icing on the cake.”

She praised Drake for her energy and passion to help others and show them, “there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

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