Fundraising walk for mental illness awareness set for this weekend 

click to enlarge 2014_walk.jpg

National Alliance for Mental Illness Oklahoma (NAMI) hosts a fundraising walk Saturday at Myriad Botanical Gardens. This annual, family- and pet-friendly event raises money to help Oklahomans with mental illnesses such as autism, anxiety and depression.

NAMIWalks Oklahoma begins at 9:30 a.m. with registration at 8:30 a.m. and includes a 5K loop through Myriad Botanical Gardens. Last year, 2,400 people participated, and this year, attendance is expected to rise significantly.

“We are expecting 4,000,” said Michelle Gregory, NAMI Oklahoma’s development director.

NAMIWalks will raise funds for programs available to Oklahomans seeking support and education on mental illness.

Last year, $78,264 was raised. The target is higher this year.

“Our goal is $90,000,” said Gregory. “Most of the money goes to programs that are free of charge.”

These free programs include basics classes, family support groups, peer-to-peer courses, student education and veterans support groups. A portion of the money raised also goes to advocacy at the capitol.

Susie Seymour, who works for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, has benefited from involvement with NAMI since 2001 as a volunteer and a client.

Her first experience was as a NAMIWalks volunteer. Only able to walk about 500 feet, she was among supportive people who helped start her journey to healing.

“I was out. I was about,” said Seymour. “It was fun. It helped me propel my way into recovery.”

An important goal of NAMIWalks is to decrease the stigma of mental illness. Many people do not seek help because they are afraid of what others might think of them.

If the stigma attached to mental health is decreased, more people will seek help and companies will do more research to find cures.

NAMI Oklahoma also offers a breakfast to recognize and honor those who have suffered a loss to suicide. The breakfast is 7:30 a.m. Saturday at Myriad Botanical Gardens in the Water Plaza Room.

Gregory explained that after a suicide, those left behind often feel disconnected. The breakfast offers support to family members and honors those who have died.

This year, NAMI Oklahoma celebrates 30 years of education, support and advocacy.

Last year, more than 23,000 family members and people with mental illness participated in support groups across the state.

More than 2,400 callers were referred to mental health resources, more than 250 teachers participated in Parents and Teachers as Allies classes and 49 people trained to facilitate in the Summer Institute, Gregory said.

This is NAMIWalks’ 13th year, and the theme is Hope Starts with You. For more information, visit or contact Michelle Gregory 1-800-583-1264.

Print headline: Amble aware, On Saturday, Oklahomans walk to raise funds for and awareness of mental illness.

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Gina A. Dabney

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