Sunday walk in Niagara Falls offers community, healing, after the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic

Apr 16, 2021

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.

Editor's Note: This story discusses mental health topics including 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). Crisis Text Line can be reached by texting HOME to 741741 (US) or 686868 (Canada).

  

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 told WBFO.

The 5K wellness walk, called "Walk With Us" is being hosted at the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center at 825 Depot Ave W in Niagara Falls.  A five kilometer walk is just a little over three miles, but you don't have to walk the whole way, according to the organizers, you can turn around at any point. You can also show up and begin the walk anytime between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

The walk costs nothing, and is not intended to be a fundraiser or awareness campaign. But Archie says there will be resources and information available at the walk, for people who may be looking for someone to talk to. He added that it’s okay to just come, be you, engage, and feel however you are feeling.

"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. 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.

We do plan to have some resources, you know, agencies there with resources in the event, someone wants to talk to somebody about something, but there is no ask, there is no force, there is no pressure. Show up as a community. Communities heal together. And I think that this is a fantastic way to just start that back up and allow people the opportunity to know 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. Right? 

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," Archie said.

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