Focus on life

Carnival plans to raise funds to help prevent suicide in Taos


Get set for old-fashioned fun and make Taos a healthier place to live while you’re at it. The first Help Outreach Taos (HOT) fundraiser called Carnival For Life is planned Saturday (Aug. 19) at Kit Carson Park from noon to 6 p.m.

Music, poetry and performance by youth, carnival games, food trucks, a car show, nonprofit booths, art vendors, a silent auction and raffle and much more is on tap Saturday.

Remember drenching the coach with ice water or Gatorade? Well, the dunk tank will present some irresistible targets, like our very own Mayor Dan Barrone, Taos County Commissioner Candyce O’Donnell and a few favorite Taos High School teachers, like Francis Hahn.

The park will be jumping with live music by headliner Po.10.Cee, the popular hip-hop crew from Taos Pueblo, and some special guests will surely drop by to boot.

The sister team of DJ Drifter and DJ Apolla (aka 17-year-old Natasha and 12-year-old Isabel McLaughlin) will park their component on the stage and keep the party hearty.

“I’m just really happy to be able to do this,” DJ Drifter said about being a part of Carnival For Life, recalling an unnamed friend who died on the bridge last year.

“Bonnie Bramble does palm reading and she’ll be doing kids for free,” said carnival co-organizer Stephanie Waters. Bramble is also big among Taos Farmers Market attendees, so expect overflow from Taos Plaza with folks getting their weekly hit of palm and tarot card readings.

An audience-participatory labyrinth will be created at 10 a.m., followed by a dedication by labyrinth maven Sandra Wasko-Flood. Wasko-Flood co-directed “Labyrinths for Peace: 2000,” the inaugural traveling exhibit of the Labyrinth Society and, at the same time, organized labyrinth walking on the east lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

“The labyrinth will be at least 24 feet in diameter, maybe even larger, if we put offerings in the middle,” Wasko-Flood said in a phone interview. She’s looking for at least two volunteers to help set up the carnival labyrinth with her board of directors. Drop by about 9:30 a.m., she said, if you want to help with creating the labyrinth.

Among the carnival games booths, be sure to check out the water balloon toss, a sack race, the ring toss and a “balloon-shaving” booth – complete with shaving cream and razors. But be sure to join in the cake walk for a chance to partake of a dessert by The Love Apple restaurant.

Joe Montoya and Anthony Pérez have pulled together about 25 awesome vehicles for a car show on the park grass. These auto enthusiasts are a newer group forming just to support Help Outreach Taos’ efforts in helping Taos.

A silent auction of gift certificates, jewelry, artwork, ski passes, personal and business services, overnight hotel stays, movie tickets and adventure activities are just a sampling of the auction items being offered. Then, from 2-5 p.m., a live raffle will take place, promising more items the whole family can enjoy.

“All of this is to help bring awareness to the issue of suicide and ways we can help reduce them in Taos,” said mental health worker and Help Outreach Taos adviser Risa Lehrer last week.

Help Outreach Taos was formed to help intervene and ultimately prevent suicides in the Taos community. After last year’s devastating record of 16 suicides, including two youth, more than 120 organizations and individuals have banded together to help increase awareness of support services available in Taos to help reduce the disease of suicidal ideation.

“We are in the process of creating a 24/7 phone hotline for use within our community,” Waters said.

Organizations included in HOT’s outreach program for suicide prevention include Taos Community Foundation, Golden Willow Retreat Center, DreamTree, Nonviolence Works, Holy Cross Hospital, Vista Grande Community Center, Taos Academy Charter School, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and many more.

“In a collaborative effort, many organizations have been working with HOT to find solutions to the issues surrounding suicide,” Lehrer said. “One key to reducing suicide is building connections within our community.”

Carnival For Life is just one way HOT is building those community connections – raising funds for the hotline and providing information at the booths of interested supporters.

Ted Wiard, well-known counselor and founder of Golden Willow Retreat Center, said Lehrer and Jill Cline have been the driving force for the organization since its inception the summer of 2016 — holding several meetings throughout the past year.

“Those two have done such a great job,” Wiard said. “It’s made a difference, I know it has,” referring to the decreased suicide rate and interventions over the past year. “Suicide affects all of us and it will take all of us to change how we address suicide,” Lehrer said.

All funds raised at the carnival will be used for suicide reduction, prevention and response efforts in Taos County. Donations are tax deductible as a special project under the Taos Community Foundation. To support or donate to Help Outreach Taos, contact Lehrer at, (575) 305-4681 or visit

For more information about Wasko-Flood’s labyrinth work, visit