National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Through Rain, Sleet and Snow, NAMI Walks On

By Brendan McLean, NAMI Communications Coordinator

Each time the participants of the NAMI Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot (SSW) walk made their way around Conner Park in Fremont, Ohio, the weather seemed to get worse. On the first lap the soft rain turned into a downpour. On the second, the rain turned to sleet. By the third, it had turned to snow.

But through the harsh weather, the ebullient walkers marched on. More than 350, well-bundled, walkers—100 more participants than the previous year—came together on April 28, to make the seventh annual walk a record breaking walk for the NAMI Affiliate.

“A lot of people came out to support NAMI even with the bad weather” said Melanie White, who will become executive director of NAMI SSW on June 1. “It was really important and powerful for members of the community to help raise awareness for mental illness.”

Nearly 65 of the walkers were fourth and fifth grade students from nearby Green Springs Elementary School. Students in the school’s anti-bullying group, Students Taking a Right Stand, along with parents and other staff members, braved the cold to walk to support NAMI.

While there were no reports of members of the Ministry of Silly Walks making an appearance, it appears the Ministry of Silly Hats had a strong showing. Covering the heads of many of these shivering young walkers weren’t wool knit caps or ear muffs, but rather oversized furry orange hats—that resembled shag rugs piled on their heads, hats in the shape of frogs, hats made out of balloons, at least one Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and a handful of rainbow colored wigs and various other oddities covered the heads of the young students (and the principle).

The group had met and decided to do something to show their team spirit at the walk. Out of their high-spirited discussion came the idea to where silly hats and design t-shirts. Unfortunately the weather prevented the students from showcasing their individually designed shirts.

“Despite the weather, we had such a huge response. Nearly all of the students came. I could not believe the number fourth and fifth graders who gave up a Saturday to come and walk,” said Randy Stockmaster, the principle at Green Springs.

Stockmaster is a member of the Leadership Sandusky County group, a yearlong non-profit leadership class that seeks to provide members of the community with successful leadership skills. After looking at all of the organizations in the Sandusky area, he and his team members in the class selected NAMI as their nonprofit organization to assist during the year.

Working closely with Josie Setzler, the current executive director of NAMI SSW who will be retiring on June 1 and Melanie White, it was decided the best way he and his fellow team members could help would be by participating and helping publicize the annual walk.

White is looking forward to the opportunity to become executive director and continuing Setzler’s outstanding efforts in garnering community support. “Without local support, NAMI wouldn’t be successful. Having [the children from the elementary school] out there this year walking and raising awareness was terrific,” said White. With a young, vibrant support group, the future for NAMI Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties looks bright.