Walking for Our Lives

From all walks of life, whether they walked for themselves, someone they love or someone they lost,hundreds came together with one mission for their steps. They all wanted to stomp out stigma and raisemoney for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

In one way or another, NAMI has saved them.

Carrie Edwards, co-captain of Fight or Flight Dendrites, and presenter for the Ending the Silenceprogram, says “NAMI was there for me when I needed them most. It changed my life through the peerto peer program.” Now, she shares her story through Ending the Silence. However, she says it isn’t being shared enough. “Many schools don’t want to do it yet. They don’t think there’s a need for it.” Edwards hopes that will change. There’s also a very personal reason Edwards has a special place in her heart for NAMI. She met her husband through a picnic.

Now, both of them are NAMI warriors.This walk took place at Grand Rapids’ Davenport University, where there is a strong presence of mental health awareness. A group of occupational therapy graduate students started Active Minds three years ago. However, it’s open to anyone and everyone. Azalia Gonzalez is the President of the group. She also

has served as a volunteer at West Los Angeles Veterans Hospital. “I know a lot of veterans who suffer from it; it’s personal to me,” says Azalia. Active Minds distributes pamphlets, has support groups andalso runs events for anyone who wants to attend. Recently, they distributed tickets to John Ball Zoo. Steve and Lisa Bergman got involved with NAMI Kent County in 2016 after their daughter had a mental health episode. It was then the Bergmans realized there was a lack of resources for families like theirs. Through a web search and calling around, they found NAMI Family to Family. “It was the first class I found people who understood, I felt connected, like I belonged and I wasn’t so isolated”, shared Lisa, who happens to be a mental health therapist.

Through the help of the Bergmans, NAMI Kent County has doubled its amount of educational programs. “We are offering four instead of two, training new people and we are offering Faithnet to educate any faith-based community about mental illness”,Lisa said.

Steve Bergman, a family practices physician, works with prisoners at Bellamy Creek Correctional Faciility in Ionia. He found an opportunity to connect that work to the NAMI Walk. Some of the inmates participate in a Building Trades Class. As part of the program, they craft cabinetry for Habitat for Humanity. They then transform the leftover scraps into works of art. Those pieces are donated to local nonprofit 501c3 agencies. NAMI Kent County raised $400 through a Silent Auction at the NAMI Walk.

“We are thrilled, just delighted we made more than $20,” joked Steve. This blogger went home with anawesome Christmas gift. Reminder: Arrange payment for said gift.

We do not have the final amount raised since NAMI is still accepting donations for the walks. If you would like to contribute to this life-saving cause, please click here.

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