Walking ‘Out of the Darkness’ By JOSHUA ADAM HICKS

Kenmore residents Laura Humrich and Dawn Ross will spend June 21-22 wandering the streets of Seattle in a 20-mile trek that lasts from sunset to sunrise.

  • Wednesday, June 18, 2008 12:00am
  • News

Kenmore resident Laura Humrich will participate in Seattle’s first-ever Out of Darkness Overnight Walk.

Two Kenmore women will show how it’s done

Kenmore residents Laura Humrich and Dawn Ross will spend June 21-22 wandering the streets of Seattle in a 20-mile trek that lasts from sunset to sunrise.

Their journey has nothing to do with being lost or stranded, although both women claim to have felt that way at times. It’s about suicide prevention.

Humrich and Ross are participating in Seattle’s first-ever Out of Darkness Overnight Walk.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention established the event to raise money and awareness for projects and research related to suicide prevention, as well as for programs that support survivors of loss.

“It’s going to be a tough and emotional walk,” Ross said. “I also think it will be healing for a lot of people to know that there are others out there who have dealt with similar issues.”

Each Out of Darkness participant must raise $1,000 for the cause.

Last year’s walk in New York City brought in around 1,700 walkers and grossed nearly $3 million.

The Seattle event is one of only two in the nation for 2008. Another took place in The Big Apple from June 7-8.

More than 820 people die by suicide each year in the state of Washington, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. That’s nearly four times the amount killed in homicides.

Humrich tried to end her life last fall while she was hospitalized with depression. She had been contemplating suicide for two years, and was dealing with marital problems, as well as the death of her sister.

“She was my best friend,” Humrich said.

Time, therapy, and love for her children put the mother of two back on track.

“My kids are amazing,” she said. “I don’t want to hurt them.”

Walking in the Out of Darkness event marks another step in Humrich’s healing process.

“It’s an empowerment thing – an opportunity to admit what happened and move on,” she said. “Now that I’m doing better, I also want to give back to other people.”

Suicide impacted Ross’ life at the age of 13.

Her father was a successful real-estate broker and the author of a book on playing Keno, but his addiction to gambling left the family deep in debt.

The only way he knew how to make things right was to fold. He hung himself in 1983.

Ross was at the cinema with three of her girlfriends on the night her father died.

“He was supposed to pick us up, but he never showed,” she recalls.

Ross’ father left a suicide note suggesting that his death would end the family’s troubles. But killing himself only caused more grief.

It started with his parents – who lost their only child – and went down the line to people like his son, who started abusing drugs and alcohol.

Ross kept her feelings bottled up for awhile and even managed to make the Team USA college volleyball team around age 16. But she hit the skids shortly after high school, when she got pregnant and became a single mom.

Depression hit as Ross started to relate with the pressures that her father had been dealing with.

“It all came together for me,” she said. “I could see a self-destructive pattern coming on. I saw myself struggling with finances the way I think my father did.”

Things began turning around for Ross while she was working as a clerk for the Pierce County Juvenile Court. She saw kids who were contemplating suicide instead of tackling their problems.

“Listening to those cases, it kind of gave me a different perspective on life,” Ross said. “I figured I could offer something to someone else because of my experience.”

Ross started working with suicidal youth through a diversion program. She counseled kids who were in custody, sharing her own story and reminding them that their decisions could affect others.

“A choice to end your own life doesn’t only affect you, it creates problems for other people,” Ross said. “My dad, instead of making things better for the family, he made things worse.”

Ross said she’s walking to help make resources more available to those who are in despair.

“I truly believe that if self help is utilized, they can relate to each other and not feel like such outcasts,” she said. “There needs to be a network for them to rely on.”

Visit www.theovernight.org or call (888) 843-6837 for additional information about Seattle’s Out of Darkness Overnight Walk

Box info:

The Northshore Community Network is organizing three focus groups to addresses youth suicide with students, parents, and school counselors.

There will be a $50 stipend for participants. The meetings take place in Redmond on June 13, 18, and 24, with each event intended for a different subgroup.

Washington’s 2006 Healthy Youth Survey indicated that one in eight students on the Eastside area had seriously considered suicide in the last 12 months.

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