Picnic in St. Paul's Como neighborhood raises funds for those facing sudden loss

A touching event took over the streets surrounding St. Paul's Como Park Monday night. 

Hundreds gathered to share support for those who have lost a loved one unexpectedly.

For the family of Lashay Whittaker who was struck and killed by a domestic assault suspect fleeing from police, the last several weeks have been almost too much to bear.

“We’re here to honor the walk and the victims and represent my son in law who died tragically,” said Thomas Echoles, Whittaker's father-in-law. "It's been real hard. It’s been up and down as can be expected. My daughter, my granddaughter, my mother-in-law had a difficult time, but the community, the church- everyone has been so supportive."

One source of support has been Survivor Resources, a nonprofit that helps the families of accident victims like Whittaker - as well as people who have died from homicide, suicide and drug overdoses - navigate the court system and come to grips with everything from funeral finances to their grief.

“It’s not expected. You’re left with all of those questions, the court system unknown to people. They aren't involved in it so it’s scary, it doesn't have your answers. You sometimes never get the answers you need, so we can sometimes help them pick up some of those pieces," said Colleen Luna with Survivor Resources.

At this year's annual walk-a-thon, about 200 people enjoyed a picnic style dinner and walked around Como Lake led by St. Paul mounted police. 

In addition to raising money, it’s a chance for families to meet or catch up with others who know what it’s like to walk a mile in their shoes.

"When you are first in that shock, when you meet someone who's gone through it you know you can get through it. That's really helpful," Luna said.

And for Whittaker's family, that's a step in the right direction.

"Hopefully this will be a healing moment for the family and we all can come together and heal, let each everyone know we support each other," Echoles said.

Survivor Resources said the event raised about $25,000.