Suicide_prevention-DODPhiladelphia will host a national overnight walk to raise awareness about suicide prevention on June 28-29. Thousands of people will take a 17-mile journey, walking for loved ones lost and those struggling with mental health issues.

Last week I graciously accepted an invite to a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention hosted by Saks Fifth Avenue in Bala Cynwyd supporting Craig Robinson and his Team Gia.

You might remember Craig from Season 6 of The Bachelorette. He didn’t get the final rose but he did build a deep friendship with Gia Allemand, a beautiful, successful woman engaged to be married to an NBA superstar. Gia died in August 2013 by suicide.

Craig organized Team Gia for the National Overnight Walk to Prevent Suicide. — and has a celeb team ready to walk in her honor.

But first, a walk through the glass doors of Saks, for last week’s fundraiser event for Team Gia.  In true Saks-style, the air was filled with the high notes, floral and musky from the perfume counters at the front of the store, savory and rich from the hors d’oeuvres being served on silver platters, musical from the DJ’s tricked out beats.  The air was also filled with sadness.  Amidst the glitz and glamour, we all knew we were there to commemorate a diamond more valuable than any locked away in the glass cases surrounding me.  I never met Gia personally, but one look into her mother’s deeply mournful eyes, and I felt her loss almost as if it were mine.

Gia’s mom and I talked for a while, and she told me all about her dynamic little girl.  Her love for fashion and style, her deep desire to help others.  And as I shared my passion for the same, describing my own experience with the deep darkness of depression when I was just 14, and how that has inspired me to help young people empower themselves so they never succumb to depression and its worst outcome, suicide, Gia’s mom shivered.  “Goosebumps,” she said.  “I get them whenever Gia is nearby.  She’s smiling at you.  Keep doing what you’re doing, she’s behind you.”

I have a plethora of reasons for why I’m compelled to help today’s young adults survive and thrive, but I can’t think of any better than serving the memory of a beautiful young woman, whose light couldn’t find its way out of the darkness when she was here with us.  From wherever she is now, Gia’s smiling that brightness at me, and I’m smiling back.  This one’s for you, Gia.