Biggest crowd yet expected for Dundalk's Darkness into Light
The organisers of this year's Darkness into Light walk in Dundalk are expecting the biggest crowd yet.
Now in its third year in Dundalk, the walk, which raises funds to help Pieta House continue its work on suicide prevention and mental health awareness, is expected to attract even more walkers than the 3,500 who turned up last year.
Many of those taking part will have had direct experience of the devastating impact which suicide can have on families or have struggled with mental health issues.
'The walk is so much more than a fund-raiser,' says organiser Sean Kelly. 'It gives a sense of community to those families who have lost someone. It is part of the healing process.'
With walks happening in Dundalk, Drogheda, Ardee, Dunleer, Rostrevor and Crossmaglen, Sean says that the hope is that Pieta House will establish a centre in the north east.
'One of the things which amazes us is the number of people on the walk who have approached us and said that they have used services provided by Pieta House or attended their centres around the country.'
He adds that Pieta House have confirmed that hundreds of people from Louth are attending their centres, travelling to access services which are not available locally.
Funds raised from Darkness into Light help to keep Pieta House centres open, offering free therapy, the 24 /7 Helpline line, education and bereavement counselling for people in need of support. Last year, over 8,000 people were supported with face to face therapy by Pieta experts. Since 2006, over 40,000 people received support from their intervention and bereavement counselling services. By the end of this school year, Pieta will have reached out to over 7,500 students with a bespoke schools' programme called the Resilience Academy a free programme for second year students in secondary schools designed to increase young people's resilience, hope for the future, ability to cope with difficult feelings and connection to their school.
There are 15 Pieta centres around the country and Sean says based on geographical spread, Dundalk would be the idea location for a centre in the north east.
'It won't happen overnight but we would really like to see the service expanding into this region,' he says.
He urges all those thinking of taking place in this year's walk to register as soon as possible as it helps the team of volunteers organising the event if they know how many people are going to turn up.
'We have around 1,500 people registered so far which is similar to this time last year,' he says, 'Last year we had 1,400 people register on the last three days. By leaving it late to register it makes it difficult for us when planning refreshments and car parking.'
Those who would like a distinctive yellow Darkness Into Light t-shirt need to register by the end of today (Tuesday) although Sean says that they will have a number of t-shirts left over from last year for those who fail to do so.
Walkers are advised to wear warm and waterproof clothing and comfortable shoes and to bring a torch with them.
Car parking will be available at DkIT and also at Boylesport, Irish Life and Horsewear and the 5k route starts and finishes at DkIT.
Walkers are asked to assemble at DkIT around 3.45am and the Redemptorist Choir will perform before the start.
At the end of the walk, which takes walkers from darkness through dawn to daylight, refreshments will be available in DkIT.
Last year, Darkness into Light walkers raised €6 million from the event, of which €800,000 was raised across at walks overseas. Over the past two years, the Dundalk walk has raised €165,000.
Worldwide close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year - one person every 40 seconds. In Ireland 392 people took their own lives in 2017.
Anyone wishing to join the Darkness into Light walk should visit www.darknessintolight.ie