Team “Do It for Johnnie” will participate in the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk in Washington, D.C.
“Do It for Johnnie” is named for John Stephens, the late son of Cindy Stephens, who serves as the team’s captain.
The team is made up of Stephens; her daughter, Harlee Musselman; her niece, Danielle Taylor; and Stephens’ friend, Donna Kunkel.
Feb. 10 was the 10th anniversary of John Stephens’ death and Cindy Stephens wanted to participate in the walk in his memory.
“I could not say ‘no’ because I have met her through the outreach I started in October of 2007 for women that have suffered a loss of a child or children — not just suicide,” said Kunkel, a local Arkansas City resident.
“I wanted to do this walk with Cindy — not only for her son (and) my son, but for awareness and prevention.”
However, to participate, each of the women must raise a certain amount of money.
“We must raise $1,000 each to be able to participate in the walk,” Kunkel said. “As of right now, (Stephens and Taylor) have raised their $1,000. Harlee (Musselman) is very close to her $1,000 — (but) I am falling behind. If I don’t raise the $1,000, I don’t get to participate.”
“It doesn’t matter how much you donate — every dollar counts. Please pray for our team, ‘Do It for Johnnie,’ that we all reach our goal: safe travels and, most of all, making a difference,” Kunkel added.
The walk is approximately 18 miles long and it helps to raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), a nonprofit organization that helps to raise awareness of and prevent suicide.
To donate to Kunkel’s efforts, visit www.theovernight.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donordrive.participant&participantID=21265. Net proceeds will benefit AFSP, funding research, advocacy, survivor support, education and awareness programs — both to prevent suicide and to assist those affected by it.
Stephens and Kunkel have participated together in a walk once before. In 2015, the duo participated in a Warrior Dash.
“She talked me over the dome obstacle — I am terrified of heights,” Kunkel said. “That’s what friends do.”
Kunkel also lost a son, Rhett Kunkel, when he committed suicide at the age of 21.
“My son’s first attempt was when he was 18 years old,” she said. “He demanded that we never speak about it. My mistake — I never discussed it with anyone.”
“I am sharing Rhett’s story out of concern for others that suffer from depression and to the ones that self-medicate themselves with abuse of prescription or street drugs, because of their depression.”
Kunkel founded WISH, a faith-based outreach group that has the intention of supporting women who have suffered the loss of a child. The age range of the group starts at 18 and reaches into the 70s.
Age is not the only thing that varies within the group — the manner in which the attendees have suffered loss varies, as well.
Kunkel encourages all women who have lost children to attend WISH meetings, whether their loss is due to miscarriage, accident, illness or natural causes.
WISH meets at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of every month at First Assembly of God, located at 3125 N. Summit St.