More than 700 walkers gathered Sunday morning at the Bucks County Technical High School for the 2019 #HoldOnYouMatter Walk. With a 50 percent increase in turn out, this was the Bucks County Suicide Prevention Task Force’s largest suicide awareness walk so far.
Dawn Seader, of the Bucks County Suicide Prevention Task Force, introduced herself to the crowd before passing off the microphone. People from different high schools in the local area read off a continuous list of names, submitted from those who held their memories dearly in their hearts.
“George Redner and Brian Wilson. Ronald Bartinowski. Kiernan Joseph Timoney. Drew Jones,” the list read, with many more than listed here. It continued for an eternity as mothers, fathers, friends and family embraced each other. “Chuck Myers. Bryson Allen. Jeremy Garber. Rachel Polit. Tim Martin. Kevin, who was a great friend and coworker. My brother Jimmy.”
After the reading of names, Nick Emeigh with NAMI took the stage. A graduate of Harry S. Truman High School, Emeigh told his story of surviving three separate suicide attempts. And as Emeigh spoke, rain began to fall gently from the overcast skies above.
“I am a lot of things, but one thing I am right now is truly grateful to be here,” Emeigh said. “It’s easy to get emotional and get sad, but what we’re doing today is fighting in the open. Because nobody talks about this.”
State Rep. Frank Farry, who is also the Middletown-Langhorne Fire Chief, spoke of his peers in emergency response. He remembered Kenneth Hopkins and George Redner III, two Lower Bucks firefighters who took their own lives in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
“There is a high rate of suicide among those responders, as well as mental health issues,” Farry said. “Hopefully we have a couple pieces of legislation coming out of the PA House of Representatives in a few weeks. I want to thank the Hopkins and Redner families for your continued advocacy on these issues. You have helped us charge forward to break down the stigma, raise awareness, and develop the resources.”
State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, State Rep. Tina Davis, and Bucks Commissioner Diane Marseglia also spoke.
The walk raised $48,177.15 for suicide awareness of the $65,000 goal. Donations can still be made here.