C.A.R.E.S. to host Survivors Stepping Out 5k Walk Saturday
A local non-profit organization, which provides awareness and education about suicide to the community, is hosting its annual walk on National Survivor of Suicide Day, Saturday, Nov. 20.
Community Awareness in Recognizing and Educating on Suicide (C.A.R.E.S.) Founder and Board Chair Virginia Cervasio said she began the non-profit organization in April 2006 after she lost her 24-year-old son, Angelo, to suicide on Jan. 17, 2006.
“I started the organization because I found there wasn’t much help in Southwest Florida for those who lost to suicide and for the cause itself,” she said.
The organization began in Cervasio’s home and remained there until she found an office in Fort Myers to operate the organization. Cervasio then moved the office to a more centralized office off of Del Prado Parkway in July.
The volunteer-based organization was formed to offer suicide prevention and awareness to the community. Since the organization formed, it has educated the community through free workshops and training, along with providing programs in colleges and visiting middle and high schools to talk about suicide and educate the students.
“We have trained 911 operators, teachers, counselors, police officers and many more in our community,” Cervasio said. “We offer resources to anyone who calls us if they are having any suicidal ideation or they have lost to suicide.”
C.A.R.E.S. also offers resources, so individuals can receive the help they need, along with financial support for those who need therapy, but do not have the funds to pay for the service. Support groups are also provided twice a month for survivors.
“We work specifically for the prevention of suicide and to help survivors move on with their lives,” Cervasio said. “Education is the key to prevention and that is what we offer the most.”
To further educate the community, the organization will host its fourth annual Survivors Stepping Out 5k Walk at Lakes Regional Park on Nov. 20, which is the National Survivor of Suicide Day.
“We walk to remember our loved ones lost to suicide, but mostly we walk to raise awareness for suicide prevention,” Cervasio said. “No one else in Southwest Florida holds a walk for this cause.”
Registration of a $20 donation per individual will begin at 9 a.m. with the walk following at 10 a.m. Registration can also be done by visiting www.active.com/donate/bringdownthewall.
The $20 will provide the walkers with breakfast, lunch, a T-shirt, among other items. A “kiddy korner” will be set up during the event, so parents can bring their kids and have volunteers watch them while keeping busy with crafts during the walk.
Cervasio said this year they are asking “YOU PLUS 2” to come out and help us “Bring Down the Wall” that keeps suicide in the dark during the walk.
Individuals can purchase $6 raffle tickets to help bring one brick down at a time, while revealing a painting done by a local artist and survivor Dawn Hesse.
Hesse said Cervasio asked her to paint something serene on the board behind the bricks, similar to a painting that is located in the office.
“Virginia and I met years ago through a mutual friend and I think that she is an amazing person,” she said. “I’m not sure that I could find the strength to get out of bed, let alone accomplish what she has … she is a wonderful person.”
Raffle prizes will include such gifts like a three-day, two-night stay in a suite at GullWing Beach Resort, $50 gift card to Giovanni Restaurant in Naples paired with wine and accessories, along with a one-year black card membership to Planet Fitness. Many more prizes include gift cards to various Southwest Florida businesses.
The funds received from the event will go directly towards programs the organization provides free of charge to the community.
Awareness is vital in educating the community about suicide because every 17 seconds a suicide is attempted and every 15.2 minutes someone is successful in taking their life. Every year approximately 32,000 Americans kill themselves and 2,300 of those individuals live in Florida.
For more information about C.A.R.E.S., visit www.caresprevention.org.