Community comes together for 9th Annual ‘Do Not Lose Hope’ event

Published 11:58 am Monday, October 2, 2023

Memorial Walk in Tryon sees hundreds paying tribute to lives lost to overdose and suicide


TRYON—Hundreds showed up to show respect for and remember lives of those lost to addiction and suicide at the ninth annual Do Not Lose Hope event 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, who co-organized the event with Tamara Black.

Prior to the event, 178 sunflowers were set up in Stearns Park in Columbus to represent lives lost to overdose, addiction and suicide.

The Key and Interact Clubs of Polk County High School served complimentary hot dogs and hamburgers, and the Polk County Democratic Party hosted games for children. Polk County Early College students also volunteered, making cotton candy and providing face painting. There was also complimentary pizza from The Brick, Buck’s and Sidestreet Pizza.

“It’s a pleasure to be here, to help the community,” said Chris Reynold’s of the Polk County Democrats. “It’s wonderful to see everyone out and having a good time and supporting a good cause. We’re pleased to be a part of it.”

The walk to remember the lives lost was preceded with Suzy Kocher singing Put a Little Love in Your Heart, with Prioleau and Black expressing their gratitude to those in attendance, and emphasizing the event’s relevance.

“We’re very grateful that y’all took the time out of your day to come join us. Mental health, addiction and overdose are a hard situation, and it’s so prevalent in this community and in our world,” said Prioleau. “We are losing so much beautiful potential in this community and our world, and I just thank y’all for being here to keep the conversation going.”

The short speeches were followed by a ceremony involving the two organizers releasing a white dove together, with the message “Do Not Lose Hope” strapped to its leg. Then a multitude of other doves were released by local children.

“I think the problem with suicide is exactly what this event is about, and that’s awareness,” said E.J. Meyers of Homeward Angels White Dove Releases. “The organizers understand that, and that is the exact purpose; to remind that there are people out there that are suffering, and if we can we need to help them in some way before that happens.”

Hundreds then took part in the Walk of Remembrance around the Harmon Field track with candles, as Aaron Greene read from a list of names of those who lost their lives due to suicide and overdose. 

“I think that all of us here have been touched by mental illness or suicide in some way, and not talking about it sure doesn’t help us, so we need to keep talking about it,” said Greene. “We need to steer people toward resources, and that’s certainly a lot of what today’s about.”

Misty Wilkins of Lake Lure attended the event to walk and post a photo of her daughter, Caysia Davis, whom she recently lost. 

“Caysia just passed away September 10. So it’s only been three weeks tomorrow, and she died from a drug overdose,” said Wilkins. “She was perfect to me, and beautiful and full of life.” 

At the end of the walk, Brittany Staley sang a rendition of Rise Up. Greene then announced the end of the solemn event, asking for participants to stay for a night of revelry, remembrance and community fellowship with more food and music.

More information on addiction and overdose awareness can be found on the Do Not Lose Hope facebook page, or contact