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Sunday walk in Niagara Falls offers community, healing after COVID isolation

Brian Archie with his Mile and Smile walking group.

On Sunday, a walk will be held to connect Niagara Falls residents to nature, their community and each other. The intent is to have people show up, walk together (socially distant) and heal together after a year of the pandemic.

For one of the organizers, Brian Archie, the walk falls on what would have been the 30th birthday of his son, who died by suicide. For Archie, the walk is important to help people who may have found the pandemic difficult emotionally and socially.

“I felt that, you know, not necessarily in grief, but in memory of how many other people are going through this sort of situation, how many other people are in mourning or have lost someone or are themselves struggling specifically with some mental health issues and just don't know what to do and are disconnected from community,” Archie said.

The 5K wellness walk, called "Walk With Us."is being hosted at the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center. Just over three miles, walkers do not have to walk the whole way, according to organizers, they can turn around at any point. They can also show up and begin the walk anytime 2 p.m.-4 p.m.

The walk is free and is not intended to be a fundraiser or awareness campaign, but Archie said there will be resources and information available for people who may be looking for someone to talk to.

"Right now, things are opening up a little bit. What is the easiest way to engage folks and let them know that somebody is there for them? Right now, how do we do that? We walk," he said. "We get to a space with nothing asked, other than for you to show up and walk, right? To just get that social emotional support going."

Archie said the walk is an ooportunity for the community to "heal together."

"It's okay to engage. It's okay to come and just be you. It's okay to feel however it is that you're feeling,' he said. "But let's just take a little piece of ownership of it for ourselves. And let's do something good, just for today, just for right now."

The event is cohosted by Create a Healthier Niagara Falls Collaborative and theNiagara Falls National Heritage Area. Archie and the CHNFC also hosts a Tuesday walking group called Mile 'n' Smile on Tuesdays. You can learn more about that here.

Editor's Note: This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is going through a difficult time, resources are available. In the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's number is 1-800-273-8255 (TTY: dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255). The Crisis Text Line can be reached by texting HOME to 741741 (U.S.) or 686868 (Canada).

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