By CRISTINA JANNEY
After a break, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Hays affiliate is sponsoring a personal NAMI Walk on Saturday.
The walk starts at 10:00 am at the Municipal Park at the East Shelter near the tennis courts. Hikers are invited to walk up to three miles along the causeway adjacent to the Fort Hays State University campus.
The walk will take place in conjunction with a similar event in Topeka, as well as other walks taking place across the country to celebrate the United Day of Hope. This is the first year that NAMI is taking a personal walk again after two years of virtual walks due to COVID.
The walks are designed to raise awareness about mental illness and raise money to support NAMI programs.
You can donate to the Hays team at www.namiwalks.org/team/NamiHaysTeam. If you would like to donate to up-and-coming affiliates in northwest Kansas, you can donate to the NAMI Northwest Kansas Hope Dealers team.
You can donate to affiliates across the country by visiting the NAMI Walks webpage and clicking United Day of Hope: May 21.
Anastasia Condon, walk manager for NAMI Kansas, said people often form teams in memory of loved ones who have died by suicide. Relatives of people with mental illness are also encouraged to walk.
The fundraising goal for NAMI Kansas is $100,000, of which more than $41,000 has already been donated.
Fifty percent of all money raised in Hays stays in the community to support programs, including classes, support groups, and advocacy programs. All resources and lessons that NAMI offers are free. Information shared in classes and support groups is confidential.
NAMI Hays offers a Connections support group for people with mental illness on the first and third Mondays of the month at 7:00 PM at the Center for Life Experience, 103 E. 27th St., Hays. The NAMI Family Support Group is offered on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 7:00 PM, also at the Center for Life Experience.
Both support groups are offered both in person in Hays and online.
Peer to Peer and Family to Family education programs are offered year-round by NAMI.
Email for more information on how to join a local NAMI class or group [email protected] or call the Center for Life Experience at 785-259-6859.
“What I think people don’t realize is all the resources that are available through NAMI,” said Corrina Hudsonpillar, NAMI Hays’ new chairman of the steering committee. “I didn’t realize until I was first associated with NAMI. There are so many resources that are offered for free, which is beautiful.”
She said she hopes events like the walk can help people become more aware and talk more easily about mental illness.
“The more we can talk about mental health, the better it is for everyone,” she said.
While there are more discussions about mental illness, Hudsonpillar said the stigma still exists.
“People don’t talk about ‘I’m going to see my therapist today,'” she said. “But they’re not afraid to say, ‘I’m going to the doctor today’ or ‘I’m going to the chiropractor today,’ ‘I’m going to the dentist.’ Instead, they say they have an appointment when they go to the therapist.
“We want people to talk about that more and know that it’s normal.”
The NAMI Walk is open to anyone in the community who wishes to participate. Children and leashed pets are welcome. You don’t have to donate to participate.
Hudsonpillar said those unable to attend the organized event are encouraged to walk on their own, any distance they wish.
Exercise is an important part of mental health, as well as physical health, she said.
Hudsonpillar said she hopes to grow the walk in Hays in the future.
You can follow NAMI Hays or NAMI Kansas on Facebook.
Cristina Janney is a member of NAMI.