LINCOLN — Megan Wayne’s 16th birthday would have been on Sept. 11 and a little more than a year after her suicide, the Warwick teenager’s family is still trying to cope with her loss.
But on Saturday Gail and John Wayne and Megan’s sisters, Jordan, 12, and Heather Johnson and her family joined an army of walkers seeking to prevent such sadness for others.
Megan was remembered by more than 100 people from her school and community joining the nearly 300 walkers participating in the Out of the Darkness walk on the Blackstone Valley Bikeway Saturday benefiting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and her family said they were thankful for that support.
Megan’s mom said she plans to participate in the event again next year and hopes to raise even more money for the AFSP and its work to prevent suicide.
“This is our first year and so now I know what to expect and I know what I need to do to get more sponsors,” she said.
Suicide touches many families and may result from anything from substance abuse, untreated mental illness, bullying concerns or reasons that may never been known, according to Wayne. “I just think sometimes it is about life in general and for kids it is just too much for them,” Megan’s mom said.
There is help available, and if people seek it out-- support from many others who can make a difference, according to Waynes. Saturday’s event showed how much people still think about Megan.
Megan’s father said suicide remains the third highest cause of death for young people 15 to 24 and the praised the participants for doing their part to reduce that figure.
People can continue to raise money for AFSP to Dec. 31 when the R.I. chapter hopes to have tallied $20,000 for this year’s event, Wayne said.
On the walk, Kaitlyn Lillie of Warwick traveled the route with a group of Megan’s school friends and said “she will always be in our heads.”
Megan may not have sought help before her death, but if she had people would have wanted to be there for her, Kaitlyn said. “Now we wish she could realize how many people were there for her. It probably would have helped her out,” Kaitlyn said. Another friend in the group, Briana Marold, said Megan was a great person to know and that is why so many people went to walk in her memory on Saturday. “She was the best. She was always there for everyone and we just want to let her know that we love her and we still think about her,” Briana said.
Kimberly Gleason, the eastern regional director of AFSP, said the Out of the Darkness walks are her organization’s signature event for generating awareness about suicide prevention nationwide. The organization hold about 250 walks between Labor Day and the end of November to raising funding for its work that includes offering suicide prevention programs in high schools and colleges and also creating awareness programs for people in middle age and seniors.
Saturday’s registration of a 297 walkers for the first such event on the Bikeway was a very good start for co-chairs, Diane Mariani and Greg Vallee, she said.
“It went really well, it really did,” Gleason said.
For more information, visit www.afsp.org .