Grieving mother organizes sombre event

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

This year’s Always Find A Reason to Smile Suicide Awareness & Prevention “Welcoming the Light” Walk was particularly poignant for organizer Casey Szmata.

Not only is she continuing to mourn the loss of her daughter Morgan, but this year she was faced with organizing the event while struggling with the fresh grief of losing her nephew, Mitchie Rikzu, Aug. 22.

However, after deciding to go ahead with the walk as planned on Sept. 5 at Lac Cardinal, Szmata says it ended up being “incredible”.

“Even though the rain poured down, it just seemed to intensify the atmosphere. There was so much sadness, tears, love and light. Words cannot even describe it,” Szmata says.

“We had over 100 walkers, and sadly, 14 new photos in our memorial.”

Volunteer and community support once again helped make the event possible.

Rocks painted by Lauren Rice served as centerpieces. Rice also painted small rocks which were on the tables for participants to take home as a memory.

Rentco donated the barbecue, while Ben and Corina Dargatz- Hendrickson and Terri Clarkson donated the use of their tents to keep walkers six feet apart and dry.

Morgan Fraser of Morgan Leigh’s Moments captured the event in photos.

“We also were honoured to have Jason Cheeseman sing for us,” Szmata says.

“Of course, strict COVID-19 precautions were followed, which was difficult in this time when we all needed the love and hugs of those who care.”

Participants used hand sanitizer, and only walked with their cohort groups and wore masks including masks branded with the Always Find a Reason to Smile logo.

“We are making a difference, step by step,” Szmata says.

“Next year will be the 5th annual walk, and we know it will be an event that cannot be missed.”

Members of the public can support the non-profit Always Find a Reason To Smile organization this week by purchasing a smile cookie at Peace River Tim Hortons.

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