Hundreds in the Georgia Southern University community gathered on campus Saturday morning for the "Out of the Darkness" campus walk for suicide prevention.
The event was organized by GSU student Allison Little, whose friend, GSU football student assistant Elizabeth Volker, committed suicide last fall.
The event caused Little to start reading about suicide, and it opened her eyes to the scope of the issue across the country. She wanted to do her part to spread awareness.
"Every 15 minutes in the United States, a person dies by suicide," Little said. "That is huge. We're here to raise awareness, spread the word and get it out of the darkness."
Football players wore stickers with the initials "EV" for the remainder of the 2012 season, and many players and coaches participated in the walk.
Head football coach Jeff Monken presented Volker's 2012 Southern Conference championship pendant to her parents, Mark and Kathy Volker, before the walk.
"We really appreciate the support and everything everyone has done, the university and the athletics department, everyone," Mark Volker said.
Georgia Southern President Brooks Keel said a few words to the group before the walk started. He was not surprised by the large crowd of supporters drawn by the event.
"It's a real testament to how everyone here feels about each other. It is a family on this campus and in this community -- always has been. To think that this was put on completely by students," Keel said, "I'm just so proud and so pleased to be part of a university like this."
The proceeds from the event, which benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, went well beyond Little's expectations,
"When I first put together this event, I honestly wasn't expecting more than 80 people," Little said. "I set the fundraising goal at $2,500, and right now we're over $7,000. It's really been a great success."
Donations will be accepted until midnight on Monday at http://afsp.donordrive.com.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.