Students honored for suicide prevention fundraiser

Students honored for suicide prevention fundraiser

More than 600 volunteers participated in the university's first Out of Darkness Campus Walk on April 17, 2016. The event raised $25,000 and was among the nation's top-five suicide awareness fundraising walks.
James Wooldridge | University Communication
More than 600 volunteers participated in the university's first Out of Darkness Campus Walk on April 17, 2016. The event raised $25,000 and was among the nation's top-five suicide awareness fundraising walks.

Out of the Darkness, a second-year student organization at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, finished among the nation's best in raising funds via a suicide awareness walk.

The group finished fifth among campuses nationwide, raising $25,000 during its 2016 event. An award was presented to Nebraska representatives during the 2017 American Federation for Suicide Prevention Chapter Leadership Conference, which was in January in Orange County, California.

Shelby Williby, a senior chemical engineering major, led the formation of the student group.

Due to the loss of loved ones as a teen, Williby was motivated to increase suicide prevention and mental health awareness when she came to the university in fall 2014. She recalled attending a community walk in Omaha and, after failing to find a similar organization in Lincoln, reached out for assistance.

>>Click here to watch a video of Shelby Williby discuss her motivations for the suicide awareness project.

With the help of the AFSP Nebraska Chapter from Omaha and Active Minds, a recognized student organization dedicated to reducing stigma around mental health, Williby began planning a campus walk.

"I started the walk to raise money for a cause that was important to me, and to give our community a space to open up the conversation around suicide prevention," Williby said. "Suicide is something that's incredibly painful to deal with, and there's a taboo surrounding it that makes it hard to open up about."

The group's initial fundraising goal of $5,000 was quickly surpassed as participation boomed to more than 600 volunteers and $25,000 pledged.

The walk response inspired the creation of Out of Darkness. The group is focused on generating awareness of suicide prevention and raising money to fund educational programs about mental health.

The group is now working to plan the next Out of Darkness Campus Walk, which is April 23.

"This year, we're hoping again to raise $25,000," Williby said. "We're also looking to get more members from the surrounding community."

For more information on the Out of Darkness Campus Walks, click here.

Members of the university's Out of Darkness student group include (from left) Taylor Scholl, Sydney Vogel, Shelby Williby, Mark Bowling, Tanner McKerlie, Anna Owens and Mandy Houston.
Students participate in the first Out of Darkness Campus Walk. The next suicide awareness walk is April 23.