The Florida Panhandle Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s third annual Paddle for Prevention was held on June 9 at the Gulf Place Beach Access.

The opening ceremony featured music by Danni Coyote, coffee and breakfast from Sunrise Coffee, and then participants were out to the water. After the Open Paddle, everyone was invited to participate in the honor ceremony. More than 150 supporters waded out into the Gulf of Mexico to drop rose petals into waves. A moment of silence was held for loved ones lost, friends and family still struggling, and for loss survivors to connect with one another. The after party was hosted at La Playa with music from Mark & Krissa Gillespie of QUILLESPIE.

Board member and event chair Amanda Abbott has always been drawn to the water and knows the healing abilities the Gulf can possess.

“Paddle for Prevention not only encourages anyone struggling to consider paddleboarding for therapeutic relief, but it brings us together as a community,” she said. “It’s a safe place for people to connect after experiencing loss from suicide or an attempt themselves, or for anyone struggling with mental health issues.”

The event culminated with the Grande SUP Race. Seven teams competed for the title of Grande SUP champion. Each team had six members paddling in unison on one of the YOLO Grande Inflatable Boards. Team Adventure 30A came out on top in a narrow victory over Team OluKai. The champs won a vacation package generously donated by ResortQuest.

The event raised more than $13,000, more than doubling last year’s totals and well exceeding this year’s goal.

“The community is really connecting to this event. We are excited to provide an outlet for people and we want to continue to spread the word about AFSP, our chapter events and resources, and how AFSP is able to give back to the community,” said Donna Williamson, chair of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's Florida Panhandle Chapter. “We can all be a voice for suicide prevention and help build healthier communities starting in our own backyard.”

Donations are accepted through June 30 at AFSP.org/Paddle2018.