CAMANCHE — Perched on her grandpa’s shoulders, Arianna Pretzsch didn’t know why she and Grandpa Aaron Dewey were walking Sunday.
“We’re just walking,” the little girl said.
But Dewey, of Franklin Grove, Illinois, knew that friends and family joined the Suicide Awareness Walk in memory of Nathan Pretzsch.
Arianna heard her grandpa say the name. “That’s my daddy,” she said from her lofty seat. Nathan died from suicide a couple of months ago, his wife, Samantha, explained.
The Pretzsches joined nearly 200 other people at Imperial Lanes and Corner Pins Lounge and Grill in Camanche for the Breaking the Silence walk, which remembers those who have died by suicide.
Nearly 400 registered for the walk, but because of the weather and COVID-19, only about half showed up, Nikki Carber said Sunday.
Carber founded Speak Out Against Suicide in 2012 after a Camanche eighth-grade student died from suicide, board member Margo Bousman said Sunday.
Bousman has been touched by suicide herself. “My son’s been gone eight years,” Bousman said.
Brian and Trish MacLennan, owners of Custom Beats Entertainment, supported Sunday’s event by providing sound equipment and acting as master of ceremonies. Trish has lost seven family members — her grandfather, father and five cousins — to suicide, Brian said.
Most of the 200 walkers sported matching pink Breaking the Silence T-shirts. Many named those they had lost to suicide. The crowd released yellow balloons into the wind as “Jealous of the Angels,” sung by Donna Taggart, played beneath the cloudy sky.
Rachel Leif died 385 days ago. Matt Weller remembered it to the day. “On the seventh of this month was the day we lost her,” he said. Their dog Maggie pulled at the leash in Weller’s hand.
Weller said he found help at Survivors of Suicide, a support group that meets bi-weekly at Gateway Area Community Center. It offers a place for survivors to support one another as they deal with their feelings and questions following a suicide.
“I joined a couple of days after the day that she died,” said Weller. Not only has the support group helped him, it’s a big help to the community, he said.
Speak Out Against Suicide encourages people with suicidal thoughts to call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or to visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.