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Owen Thomas Walk and Memorial in Franklin Field Credit: Alexandra Fleischman

About 300 students clad in red and blue shirts with the number 40 on their backs gathered at Franklin Field Sunday to commemorate Quakers football captain No. 40 Owen Thomas, who committed suicide last April.

Penn’s football team and other members of the community circled the track for an hour before sunset in his honor.

The walk raised $16,000 through donations, T-shirt sales and raffles. All proceeds will be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in Thomas’ name, said College senior Jackie Haas, one of Thomas’ closest friends.

The event was one of many Out of the Darkness Campus Walks that take place across college campuses in the United States to raise money for the AFSP, which works to prevent suicide, raise awareness and provide support.

A somber remembrance followed the walk, as a commemorative video and slideshow of Thomas with family and friends played on the field’s big screen.

The presentations were followed by speeches by Donna Ambrogi, a member of Philadelphia’s chapter of AFSP, and Jim Schaefer, the coach who recruited Thomas to the football team and was very close to him.

Ambrogi is the mother of Kyle Ambrogi, a Quakers running back who committed suicide in 2005.

She stressed the importance of taking good care of both physical and psychological health and that mental health should be not kept in the dark.

“Each person’s presence today lights one more candle to extinguish the darkness,” she said.

Schaefer spoke about the positive effect of the tragedy on the team’s bond.

“It brought us closer together. It gave us impetus to emulate his ideas of competitiveness and strength, which carried us through to win the championship,” he said.

The Quakers — who won the Ivy League Championship last fall — dedicated their season to Thomas.

However, Schaefer said Thomas embodied contradictions. Though Thomas “loved life so much,” he still managed to take his own life in the end.

Schaefer called all the attendees to gather for a “group hug” at the end of his speech because “that’s what Owen would have wanted.”

Haas, one of the main organizers of the event, was very happy with the turnout. “It means so much you guys came. I appreciate it more than you know,” she said.

Haas and about 10 of Thomas’ other friends participated in an AFSP charity walk in October and began planning the commemorative walk at Penn in November.

Wharton junior Jason Schmucker, one of Thomas’ teammates, was also happy with the number of people who turned up.

“It’s good for us to take the time out of the busyness of our lives to remember someone … [who] was a close friend to everyone,” he said.

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