Chatham "Out of the Darkness Walk" Raises $65,000 for Suicide Prevention

Valerie Olpp reads poem "We Remember Them" before balloons are released at "Out of the Darkness" Community Walk Credits: TAP Chatham
Griffin Breen and Owen Fern of Summit represented "Matt's Crew" at the walk Credits: TAP Chatham
Family and friends walked for Chatham's Adam Vazir with "Vaziracles" shirts Credits: TAP Chatham
Retired New Jersey State Troopers Dan Murphy and Joe Wurtz played bagpipes during the walk Credits: TAP Chatham
Chatham's Tom Rauter provided the music as the DJ for the "Out of the Darkness" walk Credits: TAP Chatham
Chatham resident Susan Chmura wanted new mothers to be aware of Postpartum depression, which hit her had when she was a young mother Credits: TAP Chatham
Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen talks to Chatham Emergency Squad members Lisbeth Bringgaard, Sue Novak and Gavin Mayes Credits: TAP Chatham
Chatham High senior Dani Coates is working to add more suicide prevention included in the CHS curriculum Credits: TAP Chatham
Chatham Township firefighter James Soccodato climbs to the top of the ladder to release last remembrance balloon on Saturday Credits: TAP Chatham
Bettyanne Breese was one of 172 employees of Allergan who participated in the walk Credits: TAP Chatham
Bob Olpp wears a shirt in honor of his nephew, Tommy Fuss, who was just 17 when he took his own life Credits: TAP Chatham
This group representing Madison's Rae of Hope donated $11,470 to the "Out of the Darkness" walk, the most of any single group Credits: TAP Chatham
Morris County Freeholder Hank Lyon, Nancy Kislin, Chatham Borough Council member Len Resto and Chatham Township Mayor Curt Ritter Credits: TAP Chatham
Chatham Township Mayor Curt Ritter, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen and state senator and former governor Richard Codey at the walk on Saturday Credits: TAP Chatham

CHATHAM, NJ - The overcast skies couldn't stop the bright light of awareness that shone through on Saturday when the first "Out of the Darkness" Community Walk was held behind Chatham High School.

People came from as far away as Virginia to raise more than $65,000 and remember lost friends and relatives who are no longer here because of suicide, an issue participants say needs to be brought to light.

The goal stated by Meredith Henning of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is to reduce suicides by at least 20 percent by the year 2025.

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Chatham's Adam Vazir, Matt Giaquinto of Summit, Madison Rae Torres of Boonton and Tommy Fuss of Massachusetts were among those lost too young.

"People don't realize it's the second-leading cause of death (ages 15 to 34 according to the National Center of Injury Prevention and Control)," Dr. Aman Vazir said. "He was doing great academically, he was good athlete, he had a job lined up after college. He died at 21. The universities aren't doing as much as they could. That's why we're here. This is really hard, but if one life can be saved, this is worth it."

Adam Vazir's fraternity brothers from the University of Virginia came to the event to walk as part of the "Vaziracles."

Chatham High senior Dani Coates is doing her part to bring awareness by lobbying the school district to add more suicide prevention to the health curriculum.

"A lot of kids at the high school feel like it is something they'll never have to deal with because it isn't seen as a big problem in Chatham," Coates said. "My goal is to make them know it is definitely here and it's good to know how to handle it at any point in life. No one talks about teenagers who are hurting themselves, but it's here. There needs to be more in the curriculum about stress, anxiety and mental health."

A group from Summit walked as "Matt's Crew" to honor their friend and do what they can to prevent it from happening to others.

"None of us saw it coming," Griffin Breen, Matt's friend, said. "I'm here today to bring awareness. I don't want this to happen to anyone like it did to his family and friends. He could have been more open about it and gotten help. He never showed any signs and I think people should talk about how they're feeling more. There is nothing worse than ending your life. There is always a solution. There were no signs we just never knew."

Boonton teenager Torres died just 10 months ago at the age of 16. "Madison's Rae of Hope" raised the most money for the walk, $11,470.

"We knew we wanted to do something," Jerri Torres said. "This is something we never, ever, ever imagined was coming. We thought we really should try to do something to raise awareness and help other people."

Chatham resident Susan Chmura came to the walk and wanted to let young mothers know about postpartum depression.

"I still suffer from depression and it started with very severe postpartum depression 41 years ago," Chmura said. "If there is any new mother or someone who had a baby recently and feels there is something wrong with them, they could be depressed. They should seek help."

Chatham Township Mayor Curt Ritter speaks at "Out of the Darkness" Community Walk

State senator and former New Jersey Governor Richard Codey speaks about mental illness

Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen talks about suicide prevention at "Out of the Darkness" Walk


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To the Editor:

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