Carrie Van Winkle knows how it feels when a family member commits suicide -- devastating.
Her brother, who suffered from a bipolar disorder, committed suicide in 2006. He initially was seeking mental health treatment but stopped.
Soon after, one day -- Sept.21 -- he decided to lie on the train tracks. He died instantly after the train hit him, Van Winkle remembered.
"It's something that we deal with on a daily basis," she said. "It's really hard, but a lot of good things have come out of this as well."
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One of those positive changes is the Out of the Darkness Community Walk in Merced, which she brought to the city in 2008 as a result of her brother's tragedy. The walk raises money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The walk is at 10 a.m. today.
Van Winkle said the foundation uses the money for vital research, and education programs to prevent suicide. Also, to increase awareness about suicide and provide depression screenings at high schools and colleges across the country.
The walk takes place in cities throughout the United States. About 200 separate communities are expected to organize walks this fall, said Van Winkle.
She said the walk in Merced has grown since its inception. About 89 community members took part in it the first year, and around 300 last year.
"We are hoping to be a little bigger this year," she said.
Van Winkle said the walk raised $3,500 last year. The goal this year is to raise $6,000 -- thus far it has raised $2,225.
The walk is free, but Van Winkle is encouraging people to raise $150 in donations. Although, she said her family's "main purpose is to bring people together to (spread) awareness about suicide."
Van Winkle said the walk will be about five miles and will take place at Applegate Park. Registration will be from 8:30 a.m. through 10 a.m. when the walk begins.
And, free lunch will be provided for all the participants after the walk.
For more information, call Carrie Van Winkle at (209) 480-5958. To donate online, visit outofthedarkness.org.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 388-6507 or email@example.com.