Over 100 students gathered at the Sacred Heart University campus field on Sept. 20 for a memorial walk to raise awareness for suicide prevention and remember three Sacred Heart students who lost their lives to suicide.
The Suicide Prevention Memorial Walk was organized by the Alpha Delta Pi sorority and the men’s rugby team. The event was hosted to honor Peter DeSalvo, a rugby player, Jelyn Lee, a member of Alpha Delta Pi, and Ryan Lahiff, a member of the Student Nursing Association.
“The main goal of this event was to shine light on mental health and let the Sacred Heart community know that they are not alone,” said Mario Cimino, a senior rugby player.
On the field, members of the band and orchestra played classical music while attendees walked around the track.
During the event, the big screen on the football field displayed images of the honored students and listed resources for students. After the walk, event organizers and loved ones gave speeches in honor of those they have lost.
Cimino said that the purpose of having the attendees walk around the track at night was to signify that no one is alone in the darkness.
While the spread of COVID-19 is still a risk, organizers made sure to follow safe social distancing guidelines. Chairs were placed at least six feet apart from each other, and each attendee wore a mask. The university also provided a virtual livestream link to the ceremony to ensure that everyone had the opportunity to take part in the event.
“Regardless of COVID-19 and the craziness going on in the world right now, the school really made this work the best that they could because the reasons behind it are so important,” said Mary Kaczmarski, a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority.
The first speech was given by the President of Alpha Delta Pi, Bridget Joyce, and the captain of the men’s rugby team, Brian Cohen.
President Dr. John Petillo also gave a speech highlighting his appreciation for all Sacred Heart students.
“We come together to remember how much we need each other and how much their absence reminds us of that fact,” said Petillo.
Towards the end of the memorial ceremony, Valerie Kisselback, Sacred Heart’s Campus Minister, said a few words regarding how each student made an impact throughout the university community. Following her speech, she initiated a candle-lighting ceremony.
“So, carry your candle, run to the darkness, seek out the hopeless, the confused and the torn,” said Kisselback. “Hold out your candle for all to see it; take your candle and go light the world.”
Director of Wellness Services Mary Jo Mason gave the final speech to conclude the ceremony. Mason mentioned different ways that students can reach out for help when needed and listed multiple resources to call.
“One of the most important steps we can take is to talk about our mental health concerns,” said Mason. “By sharing, we can see that mental health concerns are common, treatable, and we have help for that here on campus.”
If you or anybody you know may be at risk of suicide, call the National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
An additional resource is the university’s wellness center. You can contact them at: 1-203-371-7955, or email email@example.com.