‘Warriors for Wayne’ continues in ’23

Published 3:26 pm Sunday, June 11, 2023

A walk to raise awareness for suicide prevention will return to Brookhaven this fall.

In 2016, Wayne Pickering Jr. took his own life. Since then, his parents — Don and Brenda Townsend, and Wayne and Liz Pickering — have committed themselves to helping others affected by mental illness and suicide.

“He was a loving father, son, brother and friend to all. He was a bright light to this world,” said Brenda Townsend.

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Brenda and Wayne’s aunt Erica Leggett formed “Warriors for Wayne” to raise awareness of suicide, and joined the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention in 2017. That year the team participated in its first “Out of the Darkness Walk” in Madison. The walks have continued each October, with walkers participating virtually during 2020’s pandemic. It was at that time that Townsend moved her team’s walk to her hometown of Brookhaven. More than two dozen people participated that year in a walk in City Park.

“The ‘Warriors for Wayne’ team has been stepping out to raise awareness and bring hope to others who may be struggling,” Townsend said. “If you or anyone you know is struggling, please reach out. Help is available.”

This year, the walk will continue in Brookhaven, and Townsend needs other families to help support the event. She can be contacted at dt_bt_82@yahoo.com.

Townsend said no one close to her son Wayne believed he would have taken his own life.

“Wayne was a very bright student. He graduated in 1996 with a scholarship … but took a break and went into the oil field industry,” Townsend said. “He had no problems.”

Wayne was working under the tutelage of his uncle, Townsend’s brother, and in 1998 her brother was killed during a break from work. Townsend believes his death triggered some type of trauma in her son that eventually led to him giving up hope. He left behind three children.

“But he was very spiritual. He was a very inspirational person, a light to many,” she said.

Townsend wanted to be a light to others who may be struggling and believe they do not matter to anyone.

“I just want to make a difference. I pray to make a difference,” she said.

“I know I’m not the only mom, my daughter is not the only sister, my husband is not the only father … we’re not the only ones in this,” she said. “I want to reach out to other moms, other people, and my husband feels the same. This has grown and we hope to keep growing and reach out to the community.”