Lewistown — If walking a quarter mile on a chilly rainy Sunday could save one life, it was worth it for Stephanie Porch.
Poach, chair of the 6th annual Juniata River Valley Out of Darkness Walk, joined nearly 200 supporters at Kish Park in Delhi Township to raise awareness for suicide prevention.
This year’s event raised $18,134 to address mental health stigma and provide resources for those in need.
“We don’t know the exact number of lives, but even if it’s just one life, our work and outreach are worth it.” Porch said. “AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) Project 2025 aims to reduce the national annual suicide rate by 20%.”
Community Walks, held in hundreds of cities across the country, are at the heart of the Out of Darkness movement, which began in 2004. Organizers say these events empower people, reveal their connection to the cause, and create a platform. Let’s create a smarter culture about mental health.
On Sunday, family, friends, neighbors and colleagues walked side by side to support each other and mourn those who died.
“The funds we raised will allow us to bring more resources to our communities to help train people, educate them in schools, educate them in the workplace, support those affected by suicide, I was able to provide assistance to people who were suffering from mental health.” Porch said.
This year’s walk included two laps of Kish Park’s 1/8 mile walking trail. Local agencies were on hand to provide assistance, as well as speakers, including the commissioners of Mifflin and Juniata counties.
Special guest speaker was Jenna Martorana, Miss Berks County, USA. Martorana partners with local, state, and national mental health organizations to further her social impact initiatives. “It’s okay if it’s not okay” She shared her story of how she learned to grow up with depression and anxiety to help children and adults across the country.
Earlier, county commissioners in Mifflin, Juniata, and Huntingdon counties declared the first Sunday in October to be National Suicide Prevention Awareness Day.
“We conclude September’s National Suicide Prevention Month.” Porch said. “We have exceeded our (fundraising) goals every year since we started this event.”
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the Juniata Valley Crisis Line at (800) 929-9583.