Article - Office of College Advancement

Individuals shine light during Fremont Out of Darkness Walk

By Shannon Barry.

Thursday, May 3, 2012—Reprinted from Mercury News: Fremont Bulletin.

Walkers at the front hold an Out of the Darkness Campus Walks banner.Christiana Dawson Brands and Cathy Dawson each held a dove close to their heart before letting go, watching as they soared high above Ohlone College last week in memory of a loved family member lost to suicide.

The Greater San Francisco Bay Area Chapter for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sponsored Ohlone College's second annual Out of the Darkness Campus Walk April 24. The inaugural walk was held in honor of Stewart Dawson, a six-year security guard and former alumnus there who committed suicide Dec. 28, 2010.

Jimmy Dempsey, owner of the birds and an Ohlone facilities employee, arranged the release of 25 doves during the event as his way to remember Dawson.

"We miss him, we miss him a lot and it's nice to see that something good can come out of something so tragic," Brands said during the opening ceremony.

She was part of 11 people on "Team Stewie" who each wore personalized T-shirts with pictures of him on the front and back in addition to inscribed messages "We miss you Stew" and "You are always in our hearts."

Her son Grant, born the day of the walk last year, was a part of the crew that led the way for the 90 participants making the 3.2-mile loop that day.

Colleagues of Dawson also each released doves in his honor, sharing their sentiments briefly with those at the opening ceremony.

"He was extremely loved by everybody," Gwen Murphy, a campus security guard, said. "If you knew him, you could never forget him. ... He's left a great big hole for everybody."

Campus security guard James Keogh spoke about the importance of noticing signs of depression and suicide, before it is too late.

"Take care of those that you love," he said. "Don't be afraid to say something. If you see something, notify someone else, talk to them directly. It's just important that you step forward."

Brands said awareness provided through activities like the walk is key when it comes to suicide prevention.

"I think until you experience it, it's something that most people are not aware of and don't want to talk about it even because we're not quite sure how to handle it," she said. "So an event like this is so very important to get people out talking about it and saying there are things we can do to help prevent this."

Ron Travenick, Ohlone's vice president of student development, said by participating that day people including Brands were "individual lights" shining on a dark issue.

"Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe and all those great horror writers knew something very important about fear, and that was what we don't know and what's in the dark is the greatest fear of all," he said. "Today what you're doing with your own light and coming out and being present on the campus, brings something that touches the entire world out into discussion."

Kevin Feliciano, a former Associated Student Body president of Ohlone College, shared his own experience.

"Jan. 11, 2008 was a day that changed my life," he said. "It was a day where I thought there was nowhere else to go, there was nothing else to do but end my life. I had two really good friends who were with me the entire time that helped bring me out of it and ever since then, that was the day I decided I was going to do more for those around me. ... We're the leading campus in the state for suicide prevention, so I am very happy to be on a campus like this."

Sally Bratton, director of student health at Ohlone, said $3,610 has been raised to date with fund-raising open through June 1. The monies allow Ohlone to continue with the foundation's Interactive Screening Program, an online screening tool used to assess a student's risk of suicide.

"It is sent out to random students each semester," she said. "This spring we sent it to 60 students and within an hour had three responses who were very high risk. We were able to get back to them the same day to offer counseling and help."

Ohlone is the only community college currently using the program.

To make a donation for the walk,

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