A stream of yellow — the colour of hope — flowed down Port Rd on Saturday as more than 400 people walked in solidarity to support local families touched by suicide.


The Hope Walk Whangamatā was the biggest yet, drawing almost one tenth of the total permanent population of the town.


A wellbeing fair held afterwards at Whangamatā Area School drew people together to share, listen and show support, with musicians Reuben Fleetwood and the Whangamatā Area School teachers' band playing, and thousands of dollars in spot prizes donated by local businesses.


"We had a lot of the families there from recent suicides and it was quite emotional for them," says Heleena White of the Whangamatā Community Services Trust, organisers of the event.

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"It was an awesome show of support from people and businesses in the community. I guess it's becoming quite special as a day. There were people not only locally but from out of town. We were blown away."

Whangamata's Port Rd is awash with yellow the colour of hope as people gathered for the Hope Walk 2019 following a spate of tragedies in the town. PHOTOS/ Alison Smith.
Whangamata's Port Rd is awash with yellow the colour of hope as people gathered for the Hope Walk 2019 following a spate of tragedies in the town. PHOTOS/ Alison Smith.

Bella Marie Todd travelled from Rotorua and was among those dressed in bright yellow fancy dress to join the walk. Kim Bennett of Whangaparaoa was beside her.

Bella Marie Todd travelled from Rotorua and Kim Bennett from Whangaparaoa for the Whangamata Hope Walk.
Bella Marie Todd travelled from Rotorua and Kim Bennett from Whangaparaoa for the Whangamata Hope Walk.

"I love Whangamatā and I thought what a neat thing to do," she said.


A motorcycle gang of a different sort — Aotearoa Riders Against Teen Suicide (RATS) — roared into town and parked in the street as the walkers marched past.


RATS rider Dion Wairepo spoke after the walk to describe his own depression.


"I've just reached half a century, 50 years old this year and I made it. Just because you think you're alone, it doesn't mean you are — you're not.


"The person next to you may not want to hear the stories but at the end of the day it's about us helping that person. Just sit there, listen, you don't have to say anything just let them share their story. At the end of the day until they hear themselves talking, they're going to get it eventually. You may be there for days, but you'll make that person happy, you'll make them smile and you'll be saving a person's life."


Lynette Franken was among the speakers who talked about the need to open up to others. She had contemplated suicide and decided she could not put the burden of loss on her children.

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Franken will be among four local women speaking at Whangamatā Memorial Hall on Sunday at 2pm about adversity and the benefits of sharing your story.

"Vulnerability is where we heal, learn, grow and truly get to see our true self. This is an opportunity to hear from four of us women sharing our stories of vulnerability," she says.

"It may be difficult for some people to hear because some of them may relate to what they hear, but it's all about togetherness and ultimately knowing that they're not alone. We are here for others."


The Hope Walk movement is global, and this was Whangamatā's second.