Upcoming Walk-a-Mile aims to fight the stigma of mental illness

Members of New Journey Clubhouse, a program of Community Mental Health, and Hope Network walk back to Hemlock Park after last year’s Walk-a-Mile event. The walk aims to raise awareness about mental illness and disabilities. (Pioneer file photo)

BIG RAPIDS — The annual Walk-a-Mile event will once again focus on educating the public about mental illness and crushing the harmful stereotypes.

New Journey Clubhouse, a program of Community Mental Health, will host the annual walk on Saturday, April 28, at Hemlock Park. The event will kickoff at 11 a.m. with a guest speaker Jim Tuman. Tuman is a nationally known youth speaker who has appeared on shows such as the “Oprah Winfrey Show” and the “Today Show,” along with being featured in the New York Times, Detroit Free Press, USA Today and Washington Post.

Following Tuman speaking, free lunch will be provided. The walk will begin at 1 p.m., leaving from the park, heading down Michigan Avenue and ending back at Hemlock Park.

This year’s event is scheduled for a Saturday instead of a weekday, with organizers hoping to draw in more people, said Sue Stewart, New Journey Clubhouse director.

“We’d love more community participation,” Stewart said. “This year’s event overlaps with the annual family and community expo at the Big Rapids Middle School. Hopefully people will be drawn to both.”

The walk is just one way to work toward reversing the stereotypes people have for people with mental illness, said Dimi Schondelmayer, New Journey Clubhouse advocate.

“We really want to reduce the stigma of mental illness and have the community embrace people with mental illness,” Schondelmayer said. “There is so much untapped potential in our community because people are uneducated or fearful of people with mental illness.”

New Journey Clubhouse is a program where adults with a persistent mental illness can come for support and community. Members of the program receive employment and community support, social and recreational opportunities, structured days and more.

“The people I work with are really good people who happen to have mental illness,” Schondelmayer said. “Unfortunately, it’s easy for them to feel like they don’t fit in or belong. We want to change that.”

The walk is free and there is no registration required. Along with food and the walk, live music will be part of the event.

For more information, call New Journey Clubhouse at (231) 592-4654.

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Posted by Emily Grove

Emily is the Pioneer and Herald Review crime and court reporter, covering crime in both Mecosta and Osceola counties. She can be reached by e-mail at emily@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8362.

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