Bedford County women spreading suicide awareness with Virginia's first Hike for Hope

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7)-- Three women are working together to spread suicide awareness in their hometown. After months of planning, the team is hosting Virginia's first “Hike for Hope” in Bedford County.

Shannon Jurkus, Sherri Wood and Tonya Blair grew up in Bedford. They've all been affected in some way by suicide or mental illness and wanted to help.

“To bring awareness to our community,” said Wood.

The women describe themselves as “grassroots”. They got together one day and decided this was something they needed to do for their neighbors.

Wood’s daughter had a good friend in high school who committed suicide and the process was very difficult on everyone involved. The women want people in the community to know that they are not alone and there are resources.

“They think it's something wrong with them and we just need to start talking about it,” said Jurkus.

Jurkus attended an “Out of the Darkness” walk last fall in Lynchburg and that’s when it became clear to her that Bedford County needed an event like that.

Since then, they have partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, raised over $10,000 and have had more than 160 people register for the hike.

This is personal for the women. They were holding pamphlets, pins and paperwork. On top of the pile of papers was a picture of a father and daughter at a wedding.

“I lost my father in 2016 to suicide,” Blair said, holding her picture. “I've even had my own issues with and struggles with depression, anxiety- for the majority of my life.”

They’re determined to pull in as many people as they possibly can, as well as leaders in the community.

The team made a sign that says “Stop Suicide” and has been going around to law enforcement agencies and local businesses asking for leaders to pose with the sign.

It’s about taking a stand and tackling the issue head on.

“We actually do have a community that cares and wants to help,” said Blair.

The hike is May 12th at Falling Creek Park in Bedford. More information can be found at the “Bedford VA Hike for Hope” Facebook page.