PORTLAND — Nearly 200 people participated in Saturday’s Out of the Darkness walk around Back Cove – one of 240 walks held around the country this fall to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Most participants wore shirts memorializing who they walked for, including about 40 walkers sporting the message “For the Love of Buddy” with a big heart.

The shirts were in memory of Karl “Buddy” Reid, a former Scarborough High School athlete who took his own life last month at the age of 19.

Cheryl Ledoux, a family friend, organized the group of friends, family and Reid’s teammates.

“Everybody is still shocked,” by Reid’s death, Ledoux said.

But they hope by participating in Saturday’s walk and collecting $2,500 to benefit suicide prevention programs, awareness can be raised.

The walks also serve to support families affected by a suicide, said Kimberly Gleason, eastern division director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“We hope to make people aware they’re not alone,” she said.

Sometimes the walks even help those considering suicide.

Gleason said she still gets emotional remembering one man who came by himself to another Out of the Darkness walk recently.

“Folks asked who he was walking for and he said he was walking for himself,” she said, explaining how he was contemplating taking his life, but then saw an advertisement for that walk.

“By the end of the walk there were 30 people walking with him,” Gleason said. “It was incredibly powerful.”

For Rachel Morales of Portland, the walk is a way to do something positive while still grieving the loss of her son Ryan Caliendo.

Caliendo, a former senior captain and starting lineman for Portland High School’s football team, struggled with depression and took his own life four years ago at the age of 18.

“We can’t make sense of what happened,” Morales said. “It’s not like (coming to these walks) fixes anything. But we’re not alone.”

Her twin sister, Priscilla Arseneault, stood nearby Saturday with other family members and friends wearing shirts that read “Team Endo” with Caliendo’s jersey number 67. This is the fourth walk they’ve participated in since his death.

“When it first happened, I could hardly talk about it. If his name popped into my head, I had no control over my emotions,” Arseneault said.

But time and the support of others during the walks have helped her heal.

“It’s almost like therapy being surrounded by people whose lives have been touched by this. I know I’m not alone, but when I see (all the people) in front of me, it boosts my spirits,” Arseneault said.

According to the walk’s website, more than 34,000 Americans die by suicide a year. Walks held across the country are expected to raise over $6 million this year to benefit the foundation’s efforts to understand and prevent future suicides through research, education and advocacy.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:
[email protected]