Walk for Light event is huge success By Camille Berko

The Walk for Light event was put on by a group of pay-it-forward students led by junior Clare Duplissis alongside several social workers to honor those lost to suicide. It took place on Wednesday, May 19 in the football stadium.

“This event means a lot to me, I’ve lost a lot of people to suicide,” Duplissis said. “I hope people gained a little more love, a little more empathy towards each other and now know that it’s okay to share your story and talk to people.”

RIGHT: Junior Clare Duplissis holds back tears while she listens to teacher Dacia Albaugh share about her experiences and connections to suicide. (photo by Grant Englesman)

ABOVE: Juniors Lexi Naparela and Wyeth Traub, with sophomore Caden Buller wave as they round the corner of the track during the A block of academy. (photo by Grant Engelsman)

During the walk, students, alumni and teachers shared their personal stories related to suicide over the loudspeaker.

Grand Haven alum and founder of the original Walk for Light event in 2017, Natalie Koetsier, was one of several who spoke.

“Despite how nerve-wracking it is, I think it’s worth the nerves,” Koetsier said. “Because even if I can say one thing that changes someone’s perspective or brightens their day, I think it’s worth it.”

LEFT: Koetsier speaks into the microphone which casts her voice to the crowd below. All speakers shared twice, once during A lunch and once during C lunch. (photo by Camille Berko)

ABOVE: English teacher Dacia Albaugh spoke at the event about how she struggled to cope after losing many students to suicide in the past years. (photo by Grant Engelsman)

Not only did students and teachers receive the chance to walk during lunch, but family members of those lost were also invited to come support.

Many expressed gratitude for the individuals who put the event together and said they enjoyed the chance to come out and walk.

RIGHT: Kathy Cunningham holds an image of daughter Devon Paris while surrounded by family. Paris committed suicide in the fall of 2015 while she was a freshman at Grand Haven. (photo by Camille Berko)

ABOVE: Beads were handed out both before school and at the event for students to wear to show their support. Blue to support the cause, teal to support a loved one who struggles, green for a personal struggle, purple for the loss of a relative or friend and orange for the loss of a sibling. (photo by Camille Berko)

The walk was largely a success. New additions like t-shirts for sale and vendors such as Tropical Smoothie, Arbor Circle, Momentum Center and Outside In all contributed to the unique event.

“Even though it’s about a sad topic, walking with other people is just a cool experience that you don’t necessarily get to experience anywhere else,” Koetsier said.

RIGHT: Senior Zach Whitaker helps to pass out smoothies to the crowd during Wednesday's event while sporting the teams purple t-shirt that was available for $5. (photo by Camille Berko)

ABOVE: Several students walk the final stretch of their eight laps to pay their respects to those fallen to suicide. (photo by Grant Engelsman)