The Out of the Darkness Walks

When AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Walks first started in 2002, organizers wondered whether people would be willing to walk openly through the streets of their towns or cities to raise awareness for suicide in the same way they would for other leading causes of death.

The answer was a resounding “Yes!” Suicide is an issue that affects people everywhere. For the last 19 years, individuals in communities across the country have been willing to show up, and send the message that no one has to be alone – and that if we join together, our collective voices can truly make a difference.

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised perhaps the greatest challenge to the Walks since they began. Suicide prevention is especially critical during this challenging time. Could events that seemingly drew so much of their power by bringing people physically together continue when so much has shifted online due to safety concerns?

Miraculously, in a tribute to the steadfastness and resilience of our Walks family, our staff, volunteers and supporters rose to the challenge. Now more than ever, we are #TogetherToFightSuicide.

AFSP’s Community, Campus, and Overnight Walks continued this past year, providing one of the most inspiring moments in the history of these important events.

Two walkers in masks
80K participants

Bringing Communities Out of the Darkness

The Community Walks, held in hundreds of cities across the country, are the core of the Out of the Darkness movement, with friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers walking side-by-side, supporting each other and in memory of those we’ve lost.

In the midst of unprecedented challenges – from physical safety issues, to burnout, to limited funding and the many complexities that arose during a global pandemic – AFSP staff and the Walks community found creative and resourceful ways to keep these inspiring events going: mastering new platforms to stream live events and hosting recorded Walk programs, raising interest and keeping participants engaged and motivated, and continuing to attract sponsorships and much-needed funds when resources are tight for potential partners.

Walks transformed into powerful, active virtual “Experiences,” supported by safe, in-person engagements throughout the season to foster an even stronger connection among our participants than ever before.

We’d like to give thanks to our national sponsor, The Allergan Foundation, for its continued support of the Community Walks this year.

80K participants
13K teams ~$12.8M raised 420 walks

Volunteer spotlight

Over the last few years I’ve learned how to take better care of my own mental health through therapy, journaling, going for walks, and sharing my story with others. The healing process has been an uphill climb, but it’s been so worth it. Sharing my story while still healing is a way of bringing truth to the surface.

Ihsan Hines
Greater Philadelphia Chapter

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Young woman stenciling Hope is not cancelled
11K participants

Bringing Campuses Out of the Darkness

Young people represent the future of how our society understands and supports mental health. Teens, young adults, faculty and family members come together each spring to participate in AFSP Campus Walks at high schools, colleges and universities across the country.

School was different this year for so many – yet there was never any doubt that creative and dedicated students would rise to the occasion, spreading the message among their peers that suicide is something that must be faced together, with help and support available to anyone who needs it.

With only a few traditional, in-person events taking place in physically safe ways, most Campus Walks this year went virtual. Nevertheless, our young Walkers and their supporters came through, staying engaged in clever ways, including a Campus Day of Action on April 24, with 38 events taking place and students sharing and posting their unique activities to spread hope and awareness of suicide prevention.

11K participants
1K teams $1.7M raised 102 walks

Volunteer spotlight

I have a favorite quote about grief: “You just keep living, until you are alive again.” On that day, I truly felt alive after my walk.

Nancy Cooper
Orange County Chapter

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1.5K+ registered participants

The Overnight

AFSP’s flagship fundraising event, The Overnight, traditionally brings thousands of people together to walk 16 miles from dusk to dawn in solidarity for this important, deeply personal cause. The connections people make last a lifetime, and the funds they raise save lives. It is an event that is powered by love, support, hugs and togetherness.

Pivoting once again this year to a virtual event due to the pandemic, the 2021 Overnight was a rousing success. Inspired and engaged, participants built their excitement leading up to the main Overnight Virtual Experience event by pledging to take #OvernightAction such as walking, running, journaling, bicycling, reading, yoga, and more to engage their friends and followers. Our Walkers stayed connected to each other along the way through a new, private Facebook Group, where they shared stories of hope and connection with each other.

Throughout June, we encouraged this year’s Overnight participants to truly “walk” virtually, through the innovative MoveSpring app, which recreated a traditional Overnight route using a custom map of New York City, allowing Walkers to move through Rest Stops, Midnight Snack, Cheering Stations and special Mindful Moments along the route, unlocking milestones as they completed their walk. Participants were able to communicate and chat with one another, sharing photos and stories, and supporting each other.

A special Overnight Virtual Experience event program was held on June 26, featuring inspiring speeches, discussions, and videos about why the cause is so important, and keeping us all going until next year’s event, when we hope to gather in person once again.

We wish to thank this year’s Overnight sponsor, Sunovion, for making this important event possible.

1.5K+ registered participants
$938,000+ raised

Praise for this year’s Overnight

“I am so grateful to this incredible organization and The Overnight Staff, who make healing a little easier each year. The Overnight keeps me inspired by so many who share the mission to stop suicide!”

“AFSP did a great job pivoting to a virtual platform during the pandemic. I am so proud of everyone for their hard work to keep the walk going during this time. Thank you!”

“I gained personal comfort in my grief over the loss of my spouse. The Overnight gave me the courage to finally begin sharing with others.”