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‘If we can help one person we’ve made it all worth it’

Out of Darkness Walk aims to raise mental health awareness

The third annual Albert Lea Out of Darkness Walk will take place Saturday in an effort to raise awareness for mental health and suicide prevention.

Put on by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Albert Lea’s Out of Darkness Walk starts in the lower parking lot of Trinity Lutheran Church Saturday morning with registration beginning at 9 a.m. The walk itself begins at 10 a.m. and goes up Broadway Avenue, down to the gazebo in Fountain Lake Park, over to New Denmark Park and back again.

Albert Lea’s chairwoman for the walk, Darcy Nielsen, said the event will have a little more than last year due to the COVID-19 restrictions in place in 2020.

“We’re having a meal again,” Nielsen said. “Last year we weren’t able to do that, so this year we’re having our meal after the walk. We’re going to have more activities for the kids to do. We’ll have sand art for them and luminaries for everybody if they want to do one for anybody they’ve lost to suicide. We’ll still have our speakers and hopefully we’ll have some entertainment. It’s going to be bigger this year.”

Nielsen said COVID-19 has also had an impact on the mental well-being of many people and the numbers of suicides have gone up since the start of the pandemic. She said the walk is one of many ways people can help spread awareness and bring those numbers back down.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the event has 177 walkers signed up to participate and has raised nearly $30,000, almost $17,000 more than the original goal.

“It’s jumped dramatically,” Nielsen said. “My goal this year was $13,000 because I didn’t know what to expect … I want to make a difference. This is us trying to make a difference to help at least one person. Our family went through a loss, and I hope that other people never have to go through the same thing. If we can help one person we’ve made it all worth it.”

Nielsen said she wanted to thank the Ordahlen family for donating the memorials for this year’s walk.

Registration for the walk is free and can be done online at the Out of Darkness Walk website, by following the link on the Out of Darkness Walk: Albert Lea Facebook page or in-person the morning of the event. Donations can also be made online.

About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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