A Message from Kelley M. Willitts, Board Chair of the National Capital Area AFSP Chapter

A Message from Kelley M. Willitts, Board Chair of the National Capital Area AFSP Chapter

Thank you for visiting the National Capital Area Chapter (NCAC) website of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Should you be visiting our website due to the loss of a friend or loved one, I am truly sorry for  your loss but want you to know that we have endless resources for those grieving, along with programs and support groups we can connect you to. We also want for you to know that you are not alone.  If you are visiting this website because you are struggling personally, please seek medical help or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Please know that you are loved and cared about by your family and friends.

I myself, am a survivor of suicide.  My husband Bob and I lost our 16 year old daughter Ashley Marie on January 27, 2002. It was shortly after her death that I was introduced to AFSP as a participant in their Out of the Darkness walks for awareness and prevention. My involvement with the National Capital Area AFSP Chapter began in late 2012. It was at this point that I knew I was ready to help other survivors and become personally involved in our mission. I signed up to be part of the Survivor Outreach Program, as well as volunteer for other events the chapter was hosting.    

Last year in 2014, I had the distinct pleasure of being the Walk Chair for the DC Out of the Darkness Community Walk where we raised nearly $190,000 with over 1700 walkers. It was during the 9 month preparation that I was able to experience and engage firsthand, the dedication and commitment of our chapter volunteers. AFSP NCAC has truly amazing individuals working with us in our area and I am honored to once again be the DC Out of the Darkness Community Walk Chair for 2015. 

It is because of the dedication and commitment of the volunteers, along with the leadership of our Area Director that we have been able to expand our reach within the Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia Communities. In looking back, 2014 was a busy and successful year. To keep this going - we need volunteers like you! So please be in touch with us - if you are interested.

In 2014, as AFSP National Capital Area: 

  • We attended, staffed and tabled over two dozen community educational events at Government institutions, churches and synagogues, special events, expos, and more - bringing AFSP exposure to over 100,000 people in our National Capital Area.
  • We spoke to dozens of civic, corporate and religious groups on suicide prevention, mental health awareness and education.
  • We held two bi-annual volunteer orientations for nearly 100 new volunteers on our core mission and recruited more volunteers to join us in the fight against suicide.
  • We introduced and piloted a new, first in its kind AFSP Educational Series, entitled “Involving Families in LGBT Youth Suicide Prevention“ along with community partners and local allies.  In addition, we held a community screening of AFSPs “Living with Bipolar Disorder", continued to present and continued to facilitate AFSPs signature “More than Sad” DVD program to nearly one dozen different school age and parent/teacher groups across our area. We also funded two Safetalk Trainings for suicide prevention and intervention and one training for a local DC school.
  • We funded, oversaw, and held a 2 day Support Group Facilitator Training locally, that trained 40 new individuals to lead Survivors of Suicide Loss Support Groups; while dispersing SOP (Survivor Outreach Program) resources to over 200 local sites in the Washington DC region. We made over one dozen visits to the newly bereaved with our Survivor Outreach program to provide comfort, information, and assistance.
  • We invested tens of thousands of walk dollars into local educational resources with brochures and other information across the Washington Metro Region including northern Virginia and southern Maryland.
  • We funded tens more thousands of dollars on educational PR, promotion and social media promotion of our work.
  • In February, we sent over 5 local chapter volunteers and board members to AFSPs Annual Field Advocacy Forum in the Nation’s Capital and on Capitol Hill for 3 days of training, education and advocacy to all of our local representatives at the federal level.
  • On April 26, 2014, members of the Washington Hebrew Congregation held a Mitzvah Day, where they assembled over 100 packets containing information on NCAC's survivor programs and in particular the Survivor Outreach Program.  They then delivered these and 100 other packets to funeral homes, fire stations and police stations throughout Washington, DC and Montgomery County. 
  • On April 30, we held our 2nd annual Fund Raising event for LGBT Suicide Prevention and Awareness at Nellies Sports Bar. This year, we had over 100 people attend and over $3,000 dollars was raised for Suicide Prevention! We are grateful for Nellies continued partnership and contributions to our local chapter.
  • On May 21st, we held our 4th annual Golf Tournament, title sponsored in 2014 by Contrack International. Under the direction of board member George Hyder and the help of Gail Romansky and so many others, this event gets more successful each year.  We raised over $53,000.....and had over 150 golfers participate at Bull Run Golf Course - where we will continue to hold the annual tournament in May 2015.
  • In May, our Chapter partnered with NBC4 Washington for their year-long campaign called 'Changing Minds.' The 'Changing Minds' campaign serves to highlight issues surrounding mental health and suicide prevention and has already sparked a tremendous conversation amongst the local community about these important issues. As a result, AFSP appeared as an entire show on NBCs Viewpoint discussing only AFSP and suicide prevention, with nearly one dozen separate media segments and pieces on our walks, educational work, and loss bereavement. Additionally, NBC 4 leading anchors emceed all four of our local chapter Out of the Darkness Walks, and an educational, hopeful, informational promo aired for over two months promoting prevention and AFSP walks to hundreds of thousands of local viewers. This partnership will continue in 2015 - so expect more to come here! We went into the summer months with the same enthusiasm, on June 7th, over 50 volunteers from AFSP National Capital Area joined Capital Pride 2014 as a“2014 Pride Partner”to support our LGBT Community and walked in the Pride Parade on Saturday as well as participated in Pride Festival and Fair on Sunday enabling us to interact and promote our message to over 90,000 people.
  • On July 20th, we held our annual NCAC Night with the Nationals, led by Joy Lesnick. While over 50 AFSP volunteers bought tickets and watched the game, we also operated the Community Kiosk within the stadium to provide information about the important work of ASAP and the National Capital Area Chapter.
  • As the summer months came to a close, we geared up for the fall walks.  We held 3 Chapter walks this year, taking on the new walk area in Manassas, Virginia and continuing our original chapter walks in Fairfax, Northern Virginia and on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Together, these walks (our core revenue source for our mission) raised over $340,000 in total for lifesaving research, advocacy, education and awareness.
  • The week of November 22nd, we attended as a chapter team, the national premier of AFSP’s new documentary “The Journey”at our National Public Policy Office. That Saturday we held our annual International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day with over 80 people in attendance in Arlington Virginia for a day of remembrance to watch the documentary and participate in small group grief discussions.
  • This list does not BEGIN to summarize our work in the community - and it is in itself a list of staggering proportion—with so many accomplishments by our local volunteers and board members. We owe them a debt of our gratitude.

Lastly, it is only because of the continued generosity of our local donors and businesses that the NCAC AFSP Chapter is able to continue to expand and provide these programs, receiving national recognition for our work and efforts.  We hope that you will join us by walking, volunteering, or attending at least one of our events to build a world without suicide!    

We invite you to join us on Facebook, Twitter  or Instagram 

Thank you for your partnership with AFSP,

 

Kelley M. Willitts

AFSP National Capital Area Board Chairwoman