Suicide Prevention Overnight Fundraiser Goes Virtual

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s overnight fundraising event will be virtual. The Overnight Virtual Experience, an online event which will take place the night of June 26 through the morning of June 27, is a culmination of a month-long physical movement and self-care activities drive.

The lead-up activities to June 26 consist of four components: physical activities, including walking at least 16 miles or other actions; social engagement, including guidance on using social media to share experiences and spread information online; fundraising milestones, with a variety of tiered rewards; and, programming on June 26, including time to honor loved ones, connect with the community and, for those who need it, healing activities. All participants will receive a luminaria they can decorate as they wish, including to honor those loved and lost, and which they can share via an app during the June 26 virtual event.

The 2021 Overnight Virtual Experience marks the second year in a row the event will be held virtually. In 2020, the roughly 3,300 participants raised more than $1.6 million. Last year’s event was initially planned as an overnight walk, but was recast as a virtual experience in April 2020. At that time, a fundraising minimum of $1,000 per participant was waived.

This year’s virtual event similarly does not have a fundraising minimum, although participants who reached multi-tiered levels of fundraising by May 31 were given a variety of premiums. As of June 11, pledges totaled just less than $700,000, but American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Public Relations Director Alexis O’Brien was optimistic final totals would exceed $750,000.

Some aspects of the fundraiser have carried over to 2021. As in years past, each participant is paired with a Walker Coach who provides guidance and encouragement regarding reaching fundraising milestones, and who helps measure impact as participants disseminate information regarding mental health and suicide among their communities.

Both the anticipated 2021 and the 2020 fundraising levels, however, may fall short of what the organization realized during two in-person events in 2019. That year, more than 1,400 participants in San Francisco raised over $1.6 million, while a Boston event that boasted 2,400 participants pulled in more than $2.7 million.

An upcoming event, the fall Community Walks, will consist of a mix of virtual and in-person events, if local guidelines and participants in various markets make in-person events feasible. The Overnight should return to an in-person event in 2022, according to O’Brien.