In the pre-dawn hours of Saturday morning at Bend in the Road Beach, a beacon of LED candles carried by more than 200 people shined through the darkness. So did a small bonfire and a Banner of Hope displaying messages of support: “I am here for you,” “We miss you,” “Shine on, you are loved.”

The occasion was the first annual Darkness Into Vineyard Light Walk for suicide prevention and awareness, a subject that hit close to home for many who gathered. Stories were shared of relatives and friends lost to suicide and depression.

“I hope we can see this as an opportunity to cry, laugh, heal and grieve,” David Araujo, director of the Island Intervention Center, told the crowd. “People with suicidal thoughts feel powerless and without a voice. Our actions and spirits can be the catalyst for change.”

Signs of hope helped light the way. — Jeanna Shepard

Maria Ventura, one of the organizers of the event, spoke about how she lost her father to suicide and how just a smile can be a comfort for people with suicidal thoughts.

“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” she said. “You never know how meaningful one small gesture can be to someone. It can be a lifeline.”

Then, candles in hand, the group began walking along the beach path toward the Big Bridge. Only the moon lit the way and people bundled up to ward off the early morning chill. Soon the sound of bagpipes played by Edgartown police chief Bruce McNamee broke through the silence. At the bridge there was another sign. This one said “listen.”

The crowd turned and walked back along the bike path to where they had first gathered. Rays of the sun slowly emerged giving the sky an orange hue. Diane Nicholls and Maryann Del Vecchio walked side by side and said they were inspired to participate in the walk because of family members with close encounters with suicide. They stressed the importance of finding the courage to talk about suicide as a way of fighting the stigma.

David Araujo, director of the Island Intervention Center, spoke to those gathered. — Jeanna Shepard

“We really need to shine a light on and talk about suicide,” said Ms. Del Vecchio, the Island facilitator for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “People are so scared to talk about it.”

“When you are really low you don’t think you can ever be well,” added Ms. Nicholls. “That’s why it’s so important to talk to someone. It’s not a fix but can get you past a crisis point.”

As the group continued to walk the sky grew brighter. People could see each other’s faces, now filled with more smiles than tears. The Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun rang out through the speakers and coffee was served. Everyone proceeded to the shoreline and gazed out toward the horizon to watch the sunrise.

John Murray, another co-organizer of the walk, said watching the new day come in was symbolic of people finding a new beginning in their fight against the darkness of depression and suicide. He said $12,000 was raised from the event for the Island Intervention Center. But most of all he hopes the event shows those struggling that there are people who love them and want to help them.

After walking, participants gathered at the water's edge to watch the full sunrise and share stories. — Jeanna Shepard

“It gives people an outlet to show support for those who have nowhere to turn,” he said. “We want to open the door so we can welcome people into our open arms.”

The sun emerged fully and people cheered. There were more hugs and lots of laughter. Skyler Hall played Walking on Sunshine on the guitar. People continued to mingle, drinking coffee and talking. It was going to be a beautiful day.

“I don’t think the day could have gone better,” said Mr. Araujo. “It was almost surreal, seeing the aura in the sky and thinking this was meant to happen today. I think this shows a sense of unity, camaraderie, and a message that loved ones are being heard.”