The New Mexico Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is hosting a virtual hike on March 27. The group has painted a pile of “rocks of hope,” geo-tagged them and left them at various hiking trails around the Sandias. “We wanted to create motivation for people to find hope,” said Joelle Anderson, NMAFSP board member.

Anderson said the NMAFSP normally hosts “out of the darkness walks,” but with Covid, last year it was a virtual and the hike for hope was canceled. She said the out of darkness walks are usually mid- to late September and the event is used to raise funds for prevention programs and research.

The NMAFSP has many prevention classes that they offer to places like schools, military bases and police departments. The group also participates annually in the International Suicide Survior’s group, which is a global event where suicide survivors, their family and friends and other people whose lives have been impacted by suiced can all gather for various activities and story swapping.

She said that event is set for right before Thanksgiving because just before the holidays is a “crucial time.”

Anderson, along with artist Jasmine Gonzales who painted the rocks, and NMAFSP hike chair Alicia Lyons stashed the rocks at various locations in the Sandias using the AllTrails app. Lyons said the trails are marked in the app as “Hike for Hope” and there is a morning and afternoon tag.

Anderson said all three women are all active duty 58 Special Operations Wing for the Air Force. She said that suicide very much impacts the military and that they have been trying to get more military people involved in the NMAFSP events. Anderson said she has noticed that if they as military personnel to volunteer they tend to get more participants at their events.

Anderson said she lost her best friend 14 years ago to suicide, and that is one of the reasons she is enthusiastically involved in the local chapter events.

Gonzales said when she was very young she also experienced more than one loss due to suicide and is also driven to help others.

The group will be livestreaming themselves going on a hike on March 27.

They will do a hike, take a break for yoga and then come back.

The public is invited to hit the trails, look for the painted rocks and share them to social media with the hashtag #NMAFSP.

Anderson said the geo-code can be put into Google and rocks can be found that way as well.