5K walk puts spotlight on suicide prevention
The 3rd Annual C.A.R.E.S. Suicide Awareness Walk, a citywide show of support for suicide prevention, had more people Saturday than ever before, explained Executive Director Virginia Cervasio.
Cape Coral is home to Community Awareness in Recognizing and Educating on Suicide, the only organization of its kind in Lee County. Cervasio founded C.A.R.E.S. in 2006 out of her own living room, and it subsequently grew into a suicide prevention center on Del Prado Blvd. and annual events such as Saturday’s walk including hundreds of city residents.
“This is great, it is more than we expected,” said Cervasio. “There are a lot of survivors and a lot of high school and college students.”
There were 180 people participating in the 5K awareness walk. They took to the streets of Cape Coral from Veteran’s Park on Coronado Pkwy. around the downtown district and back.
Ida S. Baker High School’s JROTC team led the walkers on Saturday.
Cervasio said the walk grows larger and more organized each year.
“We are more organized, we started six months ago with five people on the committee,” she said. “And we are sponsored by WalMart.”
Twenty-five volunteers also helped to organize the walk and make sure everything ran smoothly, she said.
Veteran’s Park featured 16 informational booths from organizations such as Delta Family Counseling, Lee County’s NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and Lee Mental Health, all providing information to the community.
Minutes before the walk kicked-off, Cervasio introduced 19-year-old Whitney Stevens from Houston, Texas, who served as guest speaker at the event. Steven said she first read about Cervasio and C.A.R.E.S. in a Reader’s Digest article and has been corresponding with her through e-mail.
C.A.R.E.S. is a recipient of Reader’s Digest “Make It Matter” initiative which donated a $100,000 grant to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“I read her story in Reader’s Digest,” said Stevens. “Months later I found the Web site and e-mailed her.”
She was visibly nervous and said the Suicide Awareness Walk was the first public speaking engagement she’s ever had talking about suicide. Stevens is a survivor of an attempted suicide and her message to the audience was that nothing is worth taking your life over.
“Basically, life has struggles and difficulties, but it’s never too bad to ask for help. It’s never worth taking your life,” said Stevens.
Now she is hoping to return home and try to organize a suicide prevention center to serve other depressed or hopeless residents living in Houston.
“Houston doesn’t have anything like this,” she said.
Participants who raised the most funding for suicide prevention were in the running for a trip to New York City for two, a four-night stay at the Diamondhead Hotel on Fort Myers Beach or a one year free membership to Planet Fitness.
“They went online and raised money for the cause,” said Cervasio. ” Every penny is to serve the community.”
Walkers received a free lunch and the event concluded with a butterfly release.
For more information on the center, visit: www.leecountycares.org.