FUQUAY-VARINA, N.C. (WNCN) — Hundreds of people walked across Fleming Loop Park in Fuquay-Varina Saturday evening for the annual Out of the Darkness Walk, which raises money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Those participating are hoping they can make an impact in the fight to prevent suicide.

“Back in 1996, I lost my son Torian by suicide,” said Kathy Williams.

Since that tragedy, Williams has been an advocate for battling suicides.

“This mother has been doing the work since then,” raising awareness about mental illness and suicide prevention, “We did not know the signs and symptoms of mental illness or depression. I believe that’s what led to his suicide, and he didn’t talk about it, and of course, at that time, we didn’t talk about it. So that’s another reason I do what I do.”

Walking alongside her family, Williams joined many others who have been impacted by suicide.

The annual event is a key fundraising effort for the Central Carolina chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“AFSP is the largest private funder of suicide prevention research in the world. With that research, we’ve learned most of what we know about suicide prevention,” said Katie Rich, a North Carolina board member with the organization.

The fight for suicide prevention has had amplified meaning over the last couple of years, with the COVID pandemic having a drastic impact on many people’s mental health.

“Events like these, I get goosebumps because it’s people who have all been touched by suicide coming together. Human connection is the one thing we need as a species,” Rich said.

It’s a feeling echoed by Williams.

“It lets you know one thing, that you’re not alone, that it’s still happening, but also that people care and that something can be done about, we can prevent suicide.”

This year’s event has raised more than $54,000.

In addition to research, AFSP also provides resources for people of all ages across the Triangle. If you, or someone you love is in crisis, you can get help by dialing 9-8-8, the Suicide and Crisis Hotline.