DARKNESS INTO LIGHT had a record-breaking number of participants this year, with Tipperary communities including Carrick-on-Suir, Cashel and Tipperary Town helping to create history for Pieta House’s flagship awareness walk/run.
Well in excess of 150,000 people took part in the events all over Ireland, north and south, and across the world in the early hours of Saturday, May 6.
Now in its ninth year, Darkness Into Light's first event kicked off in New Zealand, spreading across the world, ending in Vancouver and San Francisco.
An estimated 1,200 men, women and children swept through the streets of Carrick-on-Suir at the break of dawn for the town's second annual Darkness Into Light run/walk.
Young participants were spurred on to join in after creating art work at their primary school for the event.
The children's mental health themed paintings were displayed in Carrick-on-Suir CBS Green School hall where the Darkness Into Light started and finished.
The event began at 4:15am after a warm up exercise session led by the local Bodyworxs Gym staff, the reading of a message from Pieta House founder Joan Freeman and a short speech from Carrick-on-Suir Darkness into Light committee chairperson Karen McGrath.
“I want to take a second for everyone to look around and take in that each and every person is here for a reason,” Karen said.
“I ask that you all keep this in mind throughout the walk and remember the road is shorter when it’s shared, take this opportunity to reach out.
“This year we will be passing the resting place of loved ones. The committee and I would love if you could take this time for a silent few moments to reflect on the memories you have with those you have lost.
“My reason for being here? My aunt Sharon, an amazing woman that lost her fight to depression eight years ago. I share in Pieta House's vision of a world where suicide, self-harm and stigma have been replaced by hope, self-care and acceptance.
“But we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the hard endearing work of the people behind the scenes who I cannot thank enough, but I'd like to mention them as they deserve a lot of thanks for their endless work.
“Thank you to each and everyone one of you for waking up and walking with us.
“To my committee, I have no words for how amazing you are to put up to me and my notions.
“Thank you to everyone who helped out in any way shape or form, no job is considered too small to me. In particular the local businesses that have endeavoured to ensure everyone comes back to a warm cup of tea, soup and a little bite to eat.
“A special mention to the local schools and their teachers for being open to working on the amazing art work you see tonight.
“Thank you to James Walsh, the River Rescue and the Green School – particularly Tony for being our home away from home over the last few months.
“Last but certainly not least, to anyone suffering with mental health, thank you for showing true bravery and fighting. Always remember it's okay not to be okay and it's absolutely okay to ask for help,” Karen added.
The yellow t-shirt clad sea of participants, including former Tipperary hurling star goalkeeper Brendan Cummins, were greeted by illuminated signs displaying slogans such as "Be Kind", "Gratitude" and "Love" and the glow of lit tea lights decorating the town's bridges on the route.
They first travelled through the residential area at the back of the Fair Green to Town Park and crossed over to the Castle Field and passed by Ormond Castle.
Next they crossed Dillon Bridge went up through Woodland Heights and onto the Dungarvan Road, into Carrickbeg, down Friary Hill and across the Old Bridge. They then proceeded down the Quay by the boating marina, up Barrack Lane and onto Main Street.
After sweeping down Main Street, the Darkness Into Light gathering turned left onto Bridge Street and then travelled down the Quay to the Clonmel Road and onto O'Mahoney Ave to the finish.
Huge crowds united in Cashel for the fourth annual Darkness Into Light walk/run.
The crowd were entertained by The 2 Johnnies and DJ James Moloney at the Cashel Rugby Club base. Pieta’s annual Darkness Into Light message and a thank you to all supporters, volunteers and sponsors was read aloud by chairman Declan Fitzgerald.
At 4:15am, Tipperary Paralympian Peter Ryan cut the ribbon as the community embarked on the route, with entertainment continuing throughout the walk by Sean Laffey and friends, while Blake Coleman and Dermot Hutchinson performed an acoustic set on the Plaza. Hot and cold refreshments were served until 6am.
The committee would like to thank all participants, volunteers, sponsors, entertainers and Cashel Rugby Club.
People started to arrive at Sean Treacy Park from 3am for the inaugural Darkness Into Light event in Tipperary Town.
“The droves of people that turned up to register on the night was beyond our wildest dreams,” said committee member Margaret Russell.
RTÉ Fair City actress Rachel Pilkington cut the ribbon as runners, walkers, people in wheelchairs and children on scooters made their way from the darkness into the morning light.
"All ages from 8 to 80 and above came out in force and it was a spectacle that we will never forget. Everyone was there for one reason; all of us had dealt with suicide or self harm either directly within our family circle or through a close friend or neighbour and we wanted to remember them, support their families and hopefully send out a message that help is to hand and if just one person suffering with the trauma of thoughts of suicide or self harming comes forward and talks to someone as a result of the camaraderie of the night, then it will be all worthwhile,” Margaret continued.
“Twenty minutes later the first of the runners returned and from there until 6:30am there were people standing around chatting, having a cup of tea or water and the buzz was just brilliant.
"The Tipperary Town committee of six would like to thank everyone who turned up to participate and those who were more than generous with sponsorship of everything from food of all kinds, water, refreshments to entertainment, security, stewards, first aid, refuse collection, vehicles, Gardai and motorbikers.
“Thank you to those who put up posters and brought trees to enhance our surroundings on the night, and health and safety.
“Thank you to Tipperary Community Radio, The Nationalist and the shop owners who gave us the use of their windows. Thanks to Rachel Pilkington and Pride of Tipperary Hazel Heffernan. In time we will get to thank you all individually.
“Tipperary Credit Union opened their premises to us for registration on four separate occasions and it made it very convenient for everyone. Arravale Rovers GAA Club could not have done any more for us than they did,” Margaret added.