FAIRFIELD — Nearly 700 people circled the Solano College campus Saturday to raise money and awareness for mental health issues.
The inaugural Out-of-the-Darkness 5-kilometer walk raised $28,000 to be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which will turn around and donate 50 percent of that to local programs, said Lisa Parker, career technical education program support specialist for the Solano County Office of Education.
Saturday’s walk further reinforced the office of education’s mission of breaking the negative stigma of mental health issues, raising awareness and just plain talking about uncomfortable topics such as suicide, Parker said. She regularly does this within schools, but the walk brought it to a much broader audience, she said.
“The community has responded. I’m actually overwhelmed,” Parker said after hearing how much money was donated. “We are breaking down the stigma of (mental disorders) being a negative or a weak thing.”
DJ Chriztian pumped loud, high-energy tunes as the hundreds walked the campus. Some teams wore matching shirts while others flew balloons and carried signs. Calls of ”you’re almost there” and “you can do it” could be heard over the blaring music as groups made their way.
Jay Speck, superintendent of the Solano County Office of Education, turned in his suit for some exercise clothes and joined the group on the sunny day.
“It’s very important, especially for our young people,” Speck said. “We can’t spend enough attention on these issues.”
Several informational booths were set up along the route and near the center of campus. Among them was Kate Goyette, an outreach and resource specialist with the United Way’s 2-1-1 hotline. The number was set up in 2005 to answer a host of questions about topics such as finding food, housing, mental health assistance, senior assistance and suicide prevention.
Goyette said that with several three-digit numbers for public service in the Bay Area, her group enjoy events such as the walk to up its visibility.
“Half knows about us and half have never heard of us,” she said. “We make it a point to reach out to other agencies to help spread the word.”
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