Wed. May 18th, 2022

The West Chester cheerleaders had the opportunity to give back to their community last weekend when they put together an event to raise awareness and generate support of families that have been affected by suicide.Although they are primarily recognized on the sidelines of West Chester sporting events supporting Golden Ram athletics, the cheerleading team is also dedicated to becoming actively involved in the community.

The event, which was called the Out of Darkness Walk, was dedicated to a friend of multiple cheerleaders who was lost to suicide last year.

With the number of suicides in the United States escalating year after year, the benefit intended to raise national awareness about suicide and depression, and mainly, prevention.

Out of the Darkness Community Walks are a benefit that is run by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which supports suicide research and education programs for suicide prevention.

According to their website, a person dies by suicide in the United States every 16 minutes.

WCU cheerleader Dana McCarney, who was a close childhood friend of the victim, was the organizer of the event and creator of this specific team, Team RBK.

“The cheerleading team has made a vow to try and get more actively involved in the surrounding communities and participate more frequently in benefits and fundraisers,” McCarney said. “Suicide is seemingly becoming more prevalent among our peers. So, when it came time to look for an organization to support, I wanted to do something to help raise awareness and support suicide prevention.”

The walk, which took place at Lehigh Parkway in Allentown, welcomed friends and the family of the victim. The cheerleading team received tremendous support from businesses who wanted to contribute as well.

“A t-shirt company offered to donate 150 shirts,” McCarney said. “We also had someone volunteer to design and print all of the t-shirts. Although it was unexpected, the amount of donations and support we received for the event turned out to be extremely beneficial.”

Although the event was held in memory of someone who was lost so tragically, the day ultimately turned into a positive experience for everyone who attended.

“We remembered those that were lost and united to help support prevention, in hopes that families across the nation could one day be spared,” McCarney said. “It turned out to be a beautiful day.”

The cheerleading team is hoping to continue their support of the community in the future.

“The Out of Darkness walk was our first community event of the year,” WCU cheerleader and walk participant Jillian Morgan said. “However, we will continue to do a different community service event each month. We want to show people that the West Chester cheerleaders are willing to help out and put their time towards a good cause. We hope that by contributing to events such as these, it will help us get recognized, not only as West Chester students and athletes, but as active contributors to our community.”

With the help of the cheerleading team, Team RBK has already raised $2,475. Donations will be accepted until the end of this year. For more information about suicide awareness and prevention, visit www.outofthedarkness.org.

Amy Festa is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at AF649219@wcupa.edu.

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