TENS of thousands of people are expected to walk at dawn in suicide awareness walks in Limerick and its surrounds this weekend.
The annual Darkness into Light walk will take place in Limerick city, Newcastle West and for the first time Kilmallock at 4.15am on Saturday morning.
Thomond Park will be a sea of yellow in the middle of the night as the seventh annual Darkness into Light walk takes place in the city, with up to 10,000 people expected.
The five-kilometre walk sets off from Thomond Park and goes on a circular route around the city’s northside.
The idea behind the walk is to talk from the darkness of depression through to the light of feeling well.
Meanwhile, Kilmallock’s walk starts off the town’s GAA club.
Newcastle West’s walk kicks off at the Castle Demesne, and is expected to draw 2,000 people.
The Darkness into Light walk will also take place in Ballina-Kilaloe and Shannon town.
Entry to the event costs €25, but pensioners, students and part-time workers pay €15.
For those who cannot afford the full cost of entry, donations will be accepted. Participants can also register at the former Munster Rugby store in O’Connell Street, which will remain open until 4pm on Friday.
Last year’s Darkness into Light walk in the city drew 10,000 people – on a par with Dublin’s attendance. Joan Freeman, the founder of Pieta House, said: “In Dublin, we also had 10,000 people. We have no excuse: we are a city of one million people. You should be very proud of yourselves.”
Noreen Gallagher, the chairperson of the Newcastle West Darkness into Light committee, said with 1,000 people signed up already to the walk, that double this will turn up.
“We are hoping to hold our own, at around the 2000 mark,” she said.
Elsewhere, hundreds of volunteers are on hand to ensure all three Limerick walks go smoothly.
Stewards will line all routes, while in the city, members of the Corbett Suicide Prevention Patrol (CSPP) will keep a close eye on the bridges and their surrounds.
It is likely to be an emotional occasion, with many walking in memory of loved ones, who have lost their lives by suicide.
The Darkness into Light event is Pieta House’s single biggest fund-raiser and the funds raised provide counselling and support services for those at risk of suicide and those who self-harm. Pieta House has provided therapy hours for children as young as eight years and adults in their 70s.
While Darkness Into Light raises much needed funds, it is also about awareness, solidarity and local communities.
All money raised from Limerick’s walks will go to funding Pieta House’s centre in Mungret.
For more information, and to register for the event, telephone 061-484444, or visit dil.pieta.ie online.