Marion woman is featured speaker at Suicide Awareness Walk

CADILLAC — The Wexford Missaukee Suicide Prevention Coalition hosted a Suicide Awareness Walk on Saturday, Sept. 11, at the Rotary Performing Arts Pavilion, across from the City Park in Cadillac. The event drew a crowd of more than 50 from Cadillac and surrounding communities.

Held annually, the walk is aimed to remember friends and family members lost to suicide, heighten awareness of suicide risk factors and warning signs and promote suicide prevention efforts.

The featured speaker at the event was local writer and Marion resident Peggy Hoard.

Hoard related the poignant story of the death of her teenage son, describing her grief as a mother combined with a unique pain that follows the unexpected and purposeful death of a loved one by suicide.

She spoke of the range of emotions she experienced — from mourning to guilt, resentment, rage and despair.

Hoard also read excerpts from her novella “Questions,” which relates the full story of her son’s suicide, her sorrowful journey as a mother, the torment of unending questions and the struggle to find peace — a peace she ultimately found through her Christian faith.

“If hearing my story can help someone here today who has lost a loved one through suicide, then I’m glad to be a part of the Suicide Awareness Walk event,” Hoard said. “And maybe we’ve helped to raise awareness of suicide and the signs to watch for. Also, I hope people have learned there are organizations and groups they can turn to for help.”

Following Hoard’s presentation, Leilani Kitler, event organizer, invited members of the audience to walk together along the scenic shoreline to the Clam River bridge and participate in a balloon release in memory of those lost to suicide.

“I’ve been coming to the walks for three years,” said Cadillac resident April Hamilton. “I lost a family member to suicide and these walks and the speakers are a great way of letting folks know there are warning signs you can watch for and places you can go for help and advice. The walks help to remind people they should be aware of suicide prevention all year long, not just on the days of the walks.”

“I’m here because I think it’s really important to get more awareness of suicide out there to everyone,” said Sherry Spencer, of Marion. “If we can reach just one person, it’s worth it. We definitely need more awareness of the warning signs of suicide and how we can help to prevent it.”

The Suicide Prevention Coalition is a volunteer group under the auspices of the Human Services Leadership Council serving Wexford and Missaukee counties.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities, contact Kitler at leilani.kitler@nlcmh.org.