Suicide, an often taboo topic, is the focus the first annual Walk of Life. The major sponsor of the event is the Western chapter of To Write Love on Her Arms, a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide, according to the chapter’s mission statement. TWLOHA, Inc. exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also invest directly into treatment and recovery.

“The fact is that suicide is unfortunately a topic that doesn’t get discussed,” said Colin Watrin, an event coordinator and 2011 Western graduate. “This is a great event to let people have a space to talk about a very important issue, because it is an issue that affects everybody.”

Walk of Life begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, in Arntzen 100. A march will begin in Arntzen and end at the Viking Union Multipurpose Room.

The event is the first of its kind at Western, said Mario Orallo-Molinaro, the Associated Students vice president for activities.
Starting at Arntzen, testimonials and an introduction detailing the purpose of the event will lead into the march. Going through campus, the march is a time to reflect and get a sense of community, Orallo-Molinaro said.

Once at the MPR, there will be speakers and resources for everyone in attendance. Speakers include Western’s Assistant Director of Career Services Kergie Garcia, Counseling Center Director Nancy Corbin and a representative from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“The conclusion is more of a de-stresser,” Orallo-Molinaro said. “It’s more of a lighter, warm feeling of, ‘Hey, we just went through this together.’”

The time in the MPR will also allow participants to find resources on campus, reflect and get involved in the Western community. The AS Women’s Center, the AS Disability Outreach Center and the AS Ethnic Student Center will be present.

Watrin said building a sense of community and showing people that Western is a place that supports students are important aspects of the event.

“[This is] a great chance for people to actually have a conversation about this issue,” Watrin said.

The event has been in the works since fall quarter 2011.

Kayla Imrisek, president of Western’s TWLOHA chapter, said it was amazing to have the chance to reach out to campus clubs and organizations and see that people really do care about suicide awareness and prevention.

“In the development of the process, literally everyone we’ve contacted has jumped on board [with] no hesitation, quick responses and everyone just [being] so passionate about helping with this issue,” Imrisek said.

The creators of the event hope to make Walk of Life happen every year, Orallo-Molinaro said. They are hoping it evolves from being about suicide to being an event that talks about other student issues.

Maddie Guidos, a senior who has been working on Walk of Life, has been personally affected by the issue and hopes the event will promote awareness and provide outlets to anyone in need.

“I was personally affected by my best friend’s suicide,” Guidos said. “I am very passionate about the subject and just want to help others the way me, my friends and my family couldn’t help her.”