Morning of Hope returns

Published 12:50 am Saturday, September 1, 2018

The seven cities of Hampton Roads and all five branches of the U.S. military will come together this September to promote good mental health and mourn those lost to suicide.

The second annual Hampton Roads Morning of Hope will return to Mount Trashmore Park in Virginia Beach on Sept. 8. It’s sponsored by the nonprofit Hampton Roads Survivors of Suicide Group Inc. Last year’s inaugural event brought together more than 3,000 individuals for the cause.

Parents, grandparents, siblings and others touched by depression or suicide will meet to show that they are not alone, that depression is treatable and that suicide is preventable.


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“It’s a disease,” according to event organizer and licensed social worker Chris Gilchrist. She said good mental health is akin to needing a healthy set of organs. “When you’re depressed, that’s a disease that’s diagnosable and treatable.”

This will be the first year that each military branch will be represented, Gilchrist said. Speakers will include senior military officers of Tidewater, Virginia Beach Mayor Louis Jones and dignitaries from each Hampton Roads city, including Suffolk School Board member David Mitnick.

“We’re all about bringing all the communities — civilian and military — together,” Gilchrist said.

Tom Schaad, anchor for WAVY-TV 10, will be the emcee for the program and have a list of more than 200 names that were submitted online. Each one is a person that died as a result of depression or suicide.

Schaad will carefully read each name, broadcasted across the audience from concert speakers on stage. Attendees will wear bandannas on their arms with unique colors representing the relationships they had to those that died. Some arms will have more than one bandanna, one for each life lost, Gilchrist said.

“You will see these people in colored ribbons and when a name is read, you’ll know that it’s their family’s name,” she said. It could be one person’s mom and dad wearing purple. Green means it was their brother or sister. It’s very powerful.”

Participants will walk through a curtain of 1,000 origami cranes in a kaleidoscope of different colors. The crane is an international symbol for healing, peace and hope, and legend says that anyone who folds 1,000 of them will have their heart’s desire.

Professional counselors will be available to answer questions and provide support. A memory wall will be decorated with the pictures and mementos of those missed so that their lives can be celebrated and remembered.

Attendees will take pictures and enjoy complimentary refreshments from vendors like Chick-fil-A, Flowers Baking Co. of Norfolk, Starbucks, Sam’s Club and Rita’s Italian Ice. Families can bring their children for arts and crafts like decorating a Frisbee to toss from the top of Mt. Trashmore.

The purpose of the event is to raise money towards mental health services and to keep those funds within Hampton Roads. It also creates a community for people to talk about how they were affected by depression or suicide with none of the stigma.

“We’re working hard to counter that stigma,” Gilchrist said.

Parking within Mt. Trashmore Park is very limited and is expected to fill up early, so participants are encouraged to arrive by 8 a.m.

Check in will be from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., followed by the opening program from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Chick-fil-A and Starbucks will begin serving at 8:30 a.m. The walk will be from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. along with a picnic for participants to bring food and chairs and listen to music by the Ben Phelps Project Band.

At noon there will be a drawing on stage for the Crane “Peace” Quilt, a gift from the Hampton Roads Survivors of Suicide Support Group Inc.

Visit for registration. Call 483-5111 for more information.