VIRGINIA BEACH -- Hundreds of people hit the boardwalk Sunday morning, doing more than enjoying a day at the Oceanfront.
"I lost my 21-year-old son Jake Wakefield to suicide in July of 2001, and I knew the only way I could move forward was to do something productive," explained the program's founder Kathy Wakefield. "I'd been a teacher, so I did something with education."
Wakefield started I Need A Lighthouse just months after her son's death. The depression and suicide awareness program's mission is to reduce significantly the loss and suffering from youth depression, suicide, and suicidal behavior in communities throughout the region.
Valerie Paschang walked Sunday in memory of her brother, Timothy Knapp, who took his life in 2012.
"I want to get out here and get awareness out so people know they are not alone, because we didn't know. We had no idea. It was a shock," said Paschang.
13News Now's Regina Mobley, lost a cousin to suicide, was among the crowd of hundreds.
"It's really touching when you see the runners run by you and they have a sign that says in memory of so-and-so, entire groups of children running for a particular teen," offered Mobley.
As part of their work, people with I Need A Lighthouse speak with high school freshmen in Virginia Beach City Public Schools.
"Every ninth grader, which is critical, because the ninth grade is a big year of transition and change, and we want to make sure the kids feel comfortable reaching out and they know what to look for," said Kate Cardone, Deputy Director of INAL.
Elaine Roberts, whose daughter committed suicide, helped Wakefield start the program.
"Please, know that you think you are killing your pain, but what you are doing is you are passing it on to the people who love you, and I know you don't want to do that," Roberts said, offering encouragement to people who are depressed or thinking of ending their lives. "Get help. Stay with us. There's hope."