Ocean City Today

Ellie’s Bus will appear during annual Out of Darkness Walk

Camper van helps spread awareness of mental health issues to prevent suicides
By Katie Tabeling | Sep 07, 2017
Photo by: Ocean City Council Agenda, Sept. 5, 2017 Ellie’s Bus, an organization that promotes suicide prevention and mental health awareness, will be at the Out of the Darkness Walk on Sept. 23. The walk will start near Caroline Street on the Boardwalk at 9 a.m.

The Jesse Klump Memorial Fund is joining another Maryland organization to destigmatize mental illness during the annual Out of the Darkness Walk on Sept. 23.

Ellie’s Bus, a bright orange ‘78 Volkswagen camper van, will be parked on the Boardwalk near Caroline Street on the morning of the fundraising walk. The bus was a gift from Larry and Sherry Leikin to their 16-year-old daughter Ellie, who passed away in 2015.

To honor their daughter’s memory, the Leikins and their network of professionals drive the bus to spread awareness of mental health issues and suicide prevention to teenagers across the country.

Ronald Pilling of the Jesse Klump Memorial Fund brought the nonprofit to Ocean City officials’ attention weeks after the annual Out of the Darkness Walk was approved by the City Council.

“Ron feels that it will draw positive attention to the event, and we have no issues to adding them to the event,” Special Events Coordinator Lisa Mitchell said during the City Council’s Tuesday’s session. “Ellie’s Bus will need to park out of the path of the trams, since they’ll be running for Sunfest.”

The council unanimously approved the request without comment.

Suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States, according a 2015 study conducted by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. That study showed that it was the third-largest cause of death among teens and young adults.

The Out of the Darkness walk raises money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Some of the money raised comes back to Worcester County in the form of mental health first aid, as well as suicide prevention and grief-counseling programs.

So far, roughly $10,000 has been pledged. Organizers anticipate more than 1,300 people will participate.

The walk begins on the Boardwalk at Caroline Street and moves north to 10th Street, where participants turn around and continue south to the Inlet. The walk ends when participants return to Caroline Street.

The Out of the Darkness walk will run from 9 a.m. to noon. For more information on how to pledge money or how to participate, visit www.facebook.com/oceancityOOTD.

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