Walk for mental health

Nearly 500 people participated in the second annual Minds in Motion KW Walking Classic on Sept. 27, which aims to raise awareness about mental health.

“Why not put together mental health support [by] bringing it out of the shadows with a big event?” said Susan Lewis, race chair for Minds in Motion.

The event featured a five and 10 km power walk around Uptown Waterloo.

Participants from any athletic skill set could walk in the event, pushing themselves to whatever level they desired.

“It’s a great get together for all the community members and it’s for a very, very good cause,” said Gudrun Oswald, 70, who participated in the five km walk.

All proceeds raised go towards purchasing athletic shoes for those with low incomes due to mental health issues.

“It’s really difficult for them to have proper shoes, so our goal is to buy as many shoes for people who are connected to the region,” explained Lewis.

The goal this year is to purchase 200 pairs of shoes.

In 2008 the group raised enough to purchase 71 pairs.

Within three weeks, the 71 pairs of shoes had been distributed, thus setting the goal far higher this year.

The total funds raised by Sunday’s event are still being calculated as donations to Waterloo Regional Homes for Mental Health are still being accepted through the Running Room’s website.

Lewis started the initiative after battling the stigmas of mental illness with her family.

“We were, in our family, experiencing a lot of stress [when] one of our children was having some mental health issues,” said Lewis.

As a certified fitness professional, Lewis and her husband turned to athletics and walking in particular as a way to de-stress.

Having grown from just over 300 participants last year, Lewis is anticipating even further growth next year.

“We’re hoping for 1,000. We’re [also] going to do a half-marathon walk.”

Supporting loved ones was a common factor among the walk’s participants. Vicky Kerr, 23, attributed her involvement in the event to supporting her boyfriend’s brother who suffers from schizophrenia.

Megan Kerr, 17, walking with her sister, noted the importance of youth involvement in the event.

“It’s good that more younger people know about it, so it’s raising awareness for everybody.”

With participants coming from as far as Toronto, the event is succeeding at spreading awareness.

“What we would really like is for this to grow … across Ontario and maybe across the country,” said Lewis.

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