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MINDY SCHAUER, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Jason Skendrovich, 10, of Placentia gives his grandmother Glenda Brooks a hug after they completed the Out of the Darkness Community Walk on Saturday to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Skendrovich's cousin and Brooks' grandson, Drew DiGiovanni, killed himself two years ago at the age of 16. The less-than-two-mile walk in Irvine featured educational displays and speakers dealing with suicide prevention.
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Marchers bring awareness to suicide

Hundreds march for suicide awareness

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

IRVINE – They smiled and occasionally laughed, 500 of them, as they walked in memory of loved ones who had committed suicide.

The Out of the Darkness Community Walk drew parents, children, spouses and friends of the dead to Bill Barber Memorial Park on Saturday. The walk raised about $30,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, organizer Veronica Scarpelli said.

Larry and Robin Patton of Yorba Linda walked in memory of their son Matt Veltre, who died in March 2008 at 25. They both wore red T-shirts emblazoned with his picture.

Mother and son had watched the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on television together. Soon after, he enlisted in the Air Force.

He was serving stateside when – she still doesn't know how – a building collapsed with him inside. He suffered a head injury and was in and out of veterans hospitals for two years. Nothing worked.

"He eventually took his own life," Robin Patton said. People who commit suicide are "just reaching out for relief and it's the only relief there is."

Kathryn Ross of Mission Viejo came for her son Gary, 24, who died in March 2002.

He had recently been diagnosed as bipolar and "was very distraught over a broken relationship and the diagnosis," Ross said. "Both of those together caused him not to want to go on."

Her advice to parents: "Be aware of signs of depression and (do) not think it's normal teenage behavior."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that in 2009 17 percent of high school girls considered suicide and 8 percent attempted it, while 10.5 percent of high school boys considered it and 4.6 percent attempted it.

Larry Webb of Rancho Santa Margarita joined the walk for Willie Andreasen, a family friend who died four years ago in his early 20s. Willie "had been in and out of recovery (for drugs) and just couldn't seem to kick it," Webb said.

For many who commit suicide, Webb said, "it's like trying to put an end to the demons inside their head. ... It's sad they wind up with no hope at such a young age."

Paula Santopadre of San Juan Capistrano and Erin Brophy of San Clemente walked for their friend Trey Collom, who died in 2006 at 34.

"Hopefully it will help those that are thinking of it," Santopadre said. "I think it's important that it's out there (as a public issue)."

"Erase the stigma," Brophy said. "When they come to that point, that they can talk about it, there's no problem where that's the best solution."

Contact the writer: 714-796-5030 or rcampbell@ocregister.com


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