Mt. Lebanon residents help organize ‘Darkness Into Light’ walk
A photo of Nathaniel Maurer taken in 2012 shows a robust young man taking command on the playing field of his sport of choice at the time, Gaelic football.
He took up Ireland’s favorite game when her returned to Pittsburgh following a stint as a professional basketball player in Europe, after starring at Carnegie Mellon University.
“He was just a huge guy, 6 foot 3 or 4, and loved the idea of roughing it up in Gaelic football,” his friend Marie Young of Mt. Lebanon recalled fondly.
In April 2016, Young and her husband, John – was his coach with the Pittsburgh Celtics – and others close to Nate, who grew up in Mt. Lebanon, were saddened to hear that he had taken his own life at age 33. A year later, they are doing something special in his honor.
For the first time, Pittsburgh will participate in the annual worldwide Darkness Into Light walk, symbolic of the fight to prevent suicide. The event is scheduled from 5 to 7 a.m. May 6 at Brookline Memorial Recreation Center, 1399 Oakridge St.
Darkness Into Light has grown substantially since 2008, when it began in the Youngs’ native Dublin, Ireland, as an awareness campaign of an organization called Pieta House.
“It’s everywhere, all over the country, and it’s allowing free services to anyone who is suffering from mental health issues, who is contemplating suicide or has been bereaved by suicide victims,” Marie explained about the nonprofit organization, which takes its name from Michelangelo’s statue of Jesus on the lap of His mother, Mary.
She became familiar with Pieta House when her mother, Catherine Tierney, became a volunteer following its 2006 opening in the Dublin suburb of Lucan.
“She made tea, opened the door, didn’t ask questions, and welcomed these people in,” Young, a language professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said.
The culture of Ireland, she explained, “has a huge stigma associated with mental health,” and Pieta House is making inroads as far as overcoming that type of barrier and providing services that otherwise are not available in a timely manner.
“The health system at home is so tragic,” Young said. “Getting an appointment with a psychologist could be month. So for these people who need immediate help, the resources just are not there.”
Because the need for such services, for similar reasons, extends to the United States, Pieta House opened a New York City center in 2015. Darkness Into Light, which has become the organization’s main fundraiser, will take place at two New York locations on May 6, and other events in this country include a pair in Boston, along with those in San Francisco, San Diego and Austin, Texas.
“All the money raised and all the donations that we’ve gotten here stay in the U.S.,” Young said about domestic suicide prevention efforts on behalf of all who need them. “Obviously, the Irish community has been super and very helpful to us, but we also want to make people realize that it’s not just an Irish event.”
She attended Darkness Into Light four years ago in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, and she described the scene:
“We hold tea lights as we walk into the sunrise. By the time the walk is finished, the 5K or the three miles are over, and it will be sunrise. And it’s the same all over the world.”