CLAYTON — What started as a family walk over ten years ago on Grindstone Island has turned into an annual tradition that will continue on Sunday, Sept. 12.

Over a decade ago, the Cantwell family suffered a loss to suicide. Since then, in an effort to keep their loved one’s memory alive and educate the public, a Suicide Prevention Walk has taken place annually; first on Grindstone Island and later in Clayton.

Last year, the event was unable to happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, the Jefferson County Suicide Prevention Coalition, which has partnered with the family since 2018, will hold the annual Suicide Prevention Walk at the Cerow Recreation Pavilion, 615 East Line Rd., on Sunday, Sept. 12. Registration will begin at noon, with the walk to follow at 1 p.m.

There will be a 5k trail walk around Cerow Recreation Park as well as a one mile walk along the trail. Those who cannot join the walk but still want to participate are encouraged to volunteer.

Beth A. Solar, a relation of the event’s founding family and workforce outreach coordinator for the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization, took on the role as co-chair for the coalition in 2019, alongside Alicia A. Ruperd.

“The start of this walk, it was a family that started it that was deeply affected by a suicide completion, and to date that family is still very active and working with us, and serves on the coalition and helps with a lot of the fundraising,” she said. “Particularly in the Clayton community I think that the community has suffered quite a few losses. I think it’s just important to make sure that we are open and we’re available to provide family supports, prevention trainings, and education.”

In 2019, the event raised $1,900, so the goal is to beat that this year. The event will take $20 donations for adult walkers, with children 12 and under participating for free. The event will also feature raffle items and a 50/50 to raise money. Donations stay 100% local, with all proceeds going to the Jefferson County Suicide Prevention Coalition.

Suicide Prevention Week runs from Sept. 5 through Sept. 11, so this event will act as a sort of wrap up to the week. If people come early before the walk starts, they will be able to purchase their raffle tickets ahead of time. For the 50/50, the drawing will take place once the last walker crosses the line. Kiddie bags will be given out to all the kids that will be participating.

Historically, participants in the event would write who they were walking in memory of. This year, the coalition has come up with the “My Why” campaign, so people can write why they are walking, what it is that makes them passionate about this prevention initiative.

The mayor of Clayton, Norma J. Zimmer, and Legislator Bobby Cantwell are confirmed to participate with the event, but others may come out as well.

The coalition has QPR trainers and can provide suicide prevention training that is tailored to basically anyone. It is also partnered with the American Foundation for Suicice Prevention, so it has resources available through them as well, according to Mrs. Ruperd.

“It is extremely important to continue to promote the communication, promote reducing stigma,” Mrs. Ruperd said. “I think we’re going to continue to see the increased numbers of mental health crises, of attempts and completions. I don’t think that we as a community have fully grasped what that looks like at this point because of COVID. Right now we’re seeing numbers ramp up, I’m sure people’s anxieties are starting once again, it’s just a lot of unknown.”

For more information, those interested can contact JCSPC chair Alicia Ruperd at (315) 785-3283 or co-chair Beth Solar at (315) 755-2020 or email suicideawarenessclayton@gmail.com.

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