National Alliance on Mental Illness
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(800) 950-NAMI;

 For Immediate Release

 Contact: Elizabeth Adams

 April 14, 2003


NAMI’s Campaign for the Mind of America Launches NAMIWALKS in 11 States

From Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine: First Steps In Broader National Campaign

Arlington, VA—Thousands of Americans will take to the streets next month to support research, education and advocacy to improve the lives of people living with mental illnesses.

NAMIWALKS is part of the Campaign for the Mind of America, sponsored by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI).

In 12 communities around the United States, individuals with mental illnesses, families and friends will walk to raise funds for NAMI state and local affiliates—as part of the organization’s first nationally-coordinated walkathon effort, coinciding with Mental Health Month.

"Nationwide, we hope to help eliminate stigma—and change the way people think about mental illness," said Joleen Bagwell, NAMI’s national development director. Distances range from two to seven miles. Dates and sites include:

  • May 3 Naples, Florida
  • May 4 Ellicott City, Maryland
  • May 10 Wilmington, Delaware
  • May 10 Portland, Maine
  • May 10 St. Louis, Missouri
  • May 10 Springfield, Missouri
  • May 17 Edmond, Oklahoma
  • May 18 Cleveland, Ohio
  • May 18 Manchester, New Hampshire
  • May 18 Mount Holly, New Jersey
  • May 18 Portland, Oregon
  • May 24 Lake Charles, Louisiana

"This year’s walks represent the first steps in building a broader campaign for the future," Bagwell said. "The bottom-line for every NAMI volunteer and supporter is to involve as many people as possible in the walks and to raise as much money as possible—so that NAMI can help as many people as possible."

Media and corporate sponsors, civic groups, teams and individuals will converge in NAMIWALKS out of faith that America can become a better home for people affected by biological brain disorders that disrupt the ability of one in four Americans to think, feel and relate to others or their environment.

In Louisiana, U.S. Senator John Breaux has taped public service announcements in support of that state’s walk.

"NAMIWALKS are about fundraising and friendraising," said Bagwell, who has a close family member with a brain disorder. "Mental illnesses involve struggle, but they also involve hope. NAMIWALKS are intended to be celebrations of faith, family and friendships as keys to recovery."

"We will have balloons, music, bounce-houses, gifts, and even cheerleaders. Every walk site will be unique," she said.

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Special note to editors: NAMIWALKS coverage may be combined with profiles of individuals with mental illnesses and their families as a special feature for Mental Health Month, stories about State budget priorities, or an update about President Bush’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. See NAMI national, state and local leaders will be glad to assist you in planning coverage for the month.

With more than 220,000 members and 1200 state and local affiliates, NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with severe mental illnesses. Funding sources for NAMI programs include hundreds of state and local governments and foundations; tens of thousands of individual donors; and a growing number of corporations. NAMI's greatest asset, however, is its volunteers-who donate an estimated $135 million worth of their time each year to education, support and advocacy. NAMI does not endorse any specific medication or treatment.