“More people came than we anticipated with so many other events going on around town, like the Chili Cookoff,” said Bonnie Moore, who leads the local NAMI chapter along with her husband, Jim Moore. “Over 300 people showed up, and over $36,000 was raised online alone,” she added.
The walk meant a lot more to the participants than just a way to raise money.
Kristie Snyder raised $714 alone as part of the Georgia Highlands College nursing class’s team Peplau’s Pals. Snyder, who walked with her twin girls Emily and MacKenzie, said she participated because her father suffers from vascular dementia, which is similar to Alzheimer’s disease.
Emmett A. Long, of Jowers-Sklar Insurance, which helped sponsor the walk, said his company chose this event “because it’s a large and unmet need to address an ongoing issue in our area, so we were excited to provide support.”
Before the walk, many officials spoke, including state Rep. Barbara Massey Reece, D-Menlo.
“Mental illness cases have been in my family since my childhood, and luckily, because of advancements in mental health care and organizations like NAMI and events like these, there no longer is shock therapy that I witnessed a family member experience,” Reece said.
Walkers strolled around Paris Lake behind GHC. Participants were invited to stop midway and write on poster board to share why they were walking.
The array of reasons ranged from helping to fight the stigma against mental illness to others who simply said they are mentally ill.
And when walkers reached the finish line, they got to stomp out the word “stigma” written in chalk.
Craig Griffin, a diagnosed schizoaffective with ADHD, participated in the walk.
He said he is grateful for the NAMIWalk because it allows an alliance in the community to help erase stereotypes created by the news media and Hollywood.
“Massacres are rare, but that’s all we see plastered on the television,” Griffin said. “Mentally ill people are mostly harmless. They have to focus on recovery, or the illness will get worse, but that doesn’t have to be the case. The more you understand about this issue by participating in events like these, the more you understand and your empathy grows.”
For more information about the Rome chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness visit www.namiromega.org or call 706-506-5010.