About 200 people from around the county gathered in Medina’s Public Square on Sunday morning to pay tribute to lives lost to suicide and to help raise awareness about suicide prevention.
What started out as a small walk for the Medina schools community became a much larger event thanks to participation from students and families from districts around the county, said Kris Quallich, director of educational services for Medina City Schools, who helped organize a campus “Out of the Darkness” walk to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on Sunday morning.
“We intended it to be for Medina and it’s really grown into something bigger,” she said. “It’s amazing to see.”
In September, Medina High School freshman Jarod Piatak took his life in the woods behind his family’s home. In 2012, a 14-year-old Medina Middle School student, Devon Baab, also died by his own hand. Earlier this year, two Brunswick students — Matthew Homyk and Anthony Gill — were found dead from apparent suicides in January.
Quallich said there was an outcry from students to find a positive way to honor the lives of their fellow students.
“We wanted to give people a positive outlet to reflect,” Quallich said. “(This is) a memory walk for some and also about awareness.”
The money raised from walkers will be split between research funding for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and dollars to be used locally for suicide awareness and outreach, said Emily Siegel, a representative from the AFSA. According to the foundation’s website, more than $6,000 had been raised on Sunday, however donations will be accepted until June.
“Part of those outreach funds include survivor outreach here in the community,” she said.
Suicide survivors came from all over on Sunday morning, including parents, families and students. Student-led groups from Brunswick and Medina high schools who worked to create videos aimed at promoting a positive message of hope for those considering suicide.
Many of the walkers wore shirts yellow butterflies with the word “hope” on them. The shirts were in honor of Medina freshman Piatak. His father said awareness is important.
“If you asked me a year ago, I would have never thought I would be here talking about this today,” Allan Piatak said.
The father said his family selected the butterfly as a symbol of hope, and said the walk through Medina and neighboring parks would have been something his son, a nature lover would have enjoyed.
“It’s been amazing support the community has given us,” he said.
The walk was more than four miles and included walks through neighborhoods and both Crestwood and Roscoe Ewing parks.
“It starts here in the city and in that way it’s about awareness,” Quallich said. “But we also have some wooded areas that can maybe provide some quiet moments for reflection as well.”
Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.