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Registration underway for key student-support events

The Out of the Darkness walk, which drew a large crowd in 2018 (pictured), will be a virtual event in its 10th annual edition in April. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

Everyone and their dog can participate in this year’s Sac State 5K Fun Run.

Ordinarily, pets aren’t allowed on the campus course, but the 13th annual Fun Run will be virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Also new this year is an extended race “day,” during which participants can complete their 3.1-mile run, walk, hike, or roll anytime April 15-29.

The Fun Run is one of two popular spring campus events that will go on virtually. The 10th annual Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk, one of Sac State’s most powerful and anticipated traditions, takes place Thursday, April 15, and has been rebranded as a “virtual experience.”

“With so many social avenues closed off and isolation the norm for everyone, mental health challenges have escalated community-wide. When this occurs, thoughts of suicide can creep in and sometimes easily cloud more rational and hopeful thoughts. The opportunity to let anyone experiencing such thoughts know that they are not alone and that help is available is critical.”

The theme of this year’s Fun Run is “Hornets Helping Hornets,” with proceeds going directly to the Sac State Greatest Needs Fund.

“The fund plays an important role, because it gives the University the flexibility to use the money for the highest priorities and unforeseen needs, such as emergency support for students during the pandemic,” said Sharon Takeda, executive director of Annual Giving Programs.

The fund recently supported the University’s basic needs programs, including the Associated Students Inc. (ASI) Food Pantry, student emergency housing, and student emergency grants.

Registration is open online.Sac State students who sign up by Thursday, April 29, pay $12. Fees for University faculty, staff, and the general public increase closer to the event. For instance, participants registering by Sunday, Feb. 28, will pay $16. The cost rises to $21 per person between Monday, March 1, and Wednesday, April 14, and last-minute registrants pay $24 when signing up between Thursday, April 15 and Thursday, April 29.

The fee per dog is $8.

Plenty of swag awaits registered fun-runners, including a commemorative T-shirt, keychain, magnet, and a digital certificate for completing the 5K. A limited number of reflective race bandanas are available for registered dogs.

Participants are encouraged to tag their selfies with #SacState5K. 

The Out of the Darkness Walk has grown from a small number of participants 10 years ago to more than 1,300 in 2019. Last year's edition, virtual because of COVID-19, drew more than 800 participants. Sac State boasts one of the largest such events in the nation.

“It supports students, the campus community, and the local Sacramento community to unite with those who have been affected by suicide, and it creates communities that encourage and support mental health,” said Joy Stewart-James, associate vice president for Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS).

Since coming to Sacramento State in 2015, University President Robert S. Nelsen and his wife, Jody, have headlined Sac State’s event. They speak poignantly about losing their son and only child, Seth, who was 25 years old when he took his life in 2001.

“The event has helped to change the conversation and stigma of suicide and mental health on our campus and provided a space to learn about resources, support and how to help those at risk for suicide,” said Lara Falkenstein, an SHCS health educator.

Sac State's annual Fun Run has become a popular and effective event on behalf of programs supporting students. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

This year’s theme is “Hornet Family: Apart but not Alone.” Online registration is open through Thursday, April 15. Individuals and teams can register online and return to the site at 5:30 p.m. April 15 to watch the opening ceremony. Additional opportunities to participate virtually will be provided after registration.

Participants are encouraged to walk, run, or roll in support of Out of the Darkness whenever and wherever they feel safe and while practicing physical distancing guidelines. 

They are also asked to tag their selfies with #OutoftheDarkness and #HornetsTogether.

The Out of the Darkness Walk is presented by SHCS, Sac State’s Active Minds chapter, and the Greater Sacramento chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

In addition to supporting AFSP’s nationwide suicide-prevention awareness programs, money raised will allow the organization to invest in new research, advocate for public policy, and support the survivors of a suicide loss.

AFSP has a goal of reducing the annual suicide rate by 20% in four years.

Ron Lutz, Sac State’s director of Counseling Services, said he believes that the University’s Out of the Darkness experience is essential to the campus community, particularly during this time.

“With so many social avenues closed off and isolation the norm for everyone, mental health challenges have escalated community-wide,” he said. “When this occurs, thoughts of suicide can creep in and sometimes easily cloud more rational and hopeful thoughts.

“The opportunity to let anyone experiencing such thoughts know that they are not alone and that help is available is critical.”

A benefit of the Out of the Darkness Walk and the Sac State 5K Fun Run being virtual this year is that many more people may be able to participate, Lutz added.

“At a time when so many traditions are being canceled or paused, the very fact that we push forward in whatever way necessary is a sign of determination and optimism. It’s something everybody needs right now,” he said.”

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About Dixie Reid

Dixie Reid has been a writer for Sac State since 2012 after decades as a newspaper reporter. A Texas native with the accent to prove it, Dixie is crazy about “dear friends, big dogs, good books, great food, day trips, baking cookies, California sunshine (and fog), and kind people.”

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