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Ascension Via Christi associate leading suicide prevention walk in memory of brother

Gayla Kelley

On March 10, 2016, Gayla Kelly lost her brother, singer/songwriter Daniel Diedrich, to suicide.

“Daniel lived and breathed music,” says Kelly. “He marched to his own beat, had a heart of gold and would give the shirt off his back for someone in need. He was a much-loved son, brother, uncle and friend.”

Since his death, Kelly, who is the front desk coordinator at the Ascension Via Christi Specialty Clinic, has dedicated her time to educating others about suicide prevention and mental health.

“I’ve lost a number of other friends and family members to suicide, but Daniel’s death was the one that spurred me to action,” says Kelly, who joined the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Walk that same year and now serves on the organization’s board.

This year, she’s serving as the chair of the event, designed to draw attention to the importance of suicide prevention and provide support to survivors of suicide loss, and will once again be walking in Daniel’s memory.

She won’t be walking alone.

Last year, more than 1,000 people whose lives have been affected by suicide came together in Wichita to support each other and raise awareness of suicide as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. This year, the AFSP is hoping to have even more people join them at the Saturday, Sept. 21 event, for which onsite registration will begin at 10 a.m., with food trucks and other activities leading up to a brief program at noon and the start of the 1-mile walk.

“It’s a chance for survivors of suicide loss to come together with others who know that pain,” says Kelly. “When you lose someone to suicide, you just feel so alone. I want to let others know that they are not alone and that there is help available.”

It’s also a chance to find out what resources are available to help survivors cope with their loss and for anyone who may be considering suicide to find the help they need.

Survivors of suicide loss are also invited to bring a photo of their loved one for posting in the memorial tent as a way to honor their memory.

“My hope is that that we can to get to a place where mental health is looked upon with equal importance to physical health,” says Kelly.

There is no cost to participate in the event and fund-raising is appreciated, but optional. To find out more, go to www.afsp.org/wichita.

About Roz Hutchinson

Roz Hutchinson is a Wichita wife, mother and chief spoiler of six grandkids and three Chihuahuas, a die-hard women's basketball fan, and director of Communications and Public Relations for Ascension Via Christi.