‘Do Not Lose Hope’ returns for ninth year

Published 11:02 am Thursday, September 7, 2023

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Walk of Remembrance promotes suicide and overdose awareness


POLK COUNTY—The ninth annual Do Not Lose Hope event to promote suicide and overdose awareness will be held on Saturday, September 30, at Harmon Field. 

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The Do Not Lose Hope event was inspired by the last words of Caroline deRosset Wesley, daughter of organizer Mary Prioleau. Around 300 attend per year, with estimated attendance in 2022 exceeding 600.

Organizers have set up 178 sunflowers in Stearns Park in Columbus to represent lives lost to overdose, addiction and suicide. There is also a banner called the Wall of Lost Potential, commemorating lives lost from overdose, provided by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Family and friends of victims hang photos of lost loved ones on the banner, and last year over 160 photos were contributed. The banner will be on display through the month of September.

The average suicide rate in North Carolina is 13.4 per 100,000 with Polk County ranking as the top county in the state. Recent data from 2017-2021 shows overdose deaths in North Carolina per 100,000 at 27, with Polk County at 25 per 100,000.

The mission of Do Not Lose Hope is “ending the silence and stigmas associated with mental and behavioral health issues and illness, by engaging the community, especially children, to openly acknowledge health as a whole body without apprehension or shame.” 

Students from Polk County Middle School and Polk County High School, along with community volunteers, will provide games, handouts and resource stations. Students will cook hot dogs and hamburgers, and complimentary pizza will be provided by Sidestreet, Bucks and The Brick. Aaron Greene will also DJ the event for the ninth consecutive year.

The walk around the track at Harmon Field in Tryon will begin at 6 p.m., with participants carrying flameless candles in support of those struggling with mental and behavioral health challenges. At 6:30 p.m., local children will participate in the dove release to honor those who lost their battle with mental health or addiction, coinciding with Aaron Greene reading the names of those lost. 

“Mental illness is the second most common reason that people get social security/disability. Mental illness is just destroying this country and people don’t know how to step out and say I am suffering because it’s always been treated differently than physical illness,” said Prioleau. “No one should be ashamed that they have a disease they didn’t ask for.” 

Mary Prioleau would like to recognize and thank Tamara Black, who joined Prioleau after her brother Jah Ford took his own life. For additional information please email  donotlosehope2014@yahoo.com, visit the Do Not Lose Hope Facebook page or call Prioleau at (828) 899-9699.