Heidi Curnow, the Operations Manager of Marketing and Communications at Numerica Credit Union and NAMI Spokane Board Member, said that the NAMI Walks event held in early June in Riverfront Park in Spokane was primarily about awareness. Curnow explained that many people in the local area are not aware that NAMI Spokane offers a series of educational classes and support groups for family members of those with a mental health condition as well as a separate series of classes and support groups for people who have mental conditions. She added that many people are also not aware that NAMI Spokane can provide presenters for community groups as well as schools where audience members can ask questions and gain an understanding of the often-misunderstood topic of mental illness.  During the NAMI Walks event, NAMI staff members and volunteers were on hand at the Rotary Fountain in Riverfront Park to answer questions and provide information on NAMI Spokane services.

Before the walk started, many of the nearly one hundred participants filled out signs that said, “I walk for NAMI because….” Participants chose to walk for many reasons including that they lived with a mental health condition themselves, they wanted to reduce stigma or they had lost a loved one to suicide and wanted to raise awareness

Chauntelle Lieske, Executive Director of Spokane NAMI, opened the walk with a few comments. She thanked the walkers for taking the time to help raise awareness around mental health. She said, “This walk has grown over the past three years and we are honored to have you join us.”

In addition to raising awareness, another important goal of the NAMI Walk was to raise funds. Five teams including NAMI Spokane, Providence Spokane, ISEC, INC., Ketamine Clinic of Spokane/NAMI Spokane, and Northwest Ketamine Clinics raised over five thousand dollars. The funds will be used by NAMI Spokane to support the services provided to the community that grant funding will not cover.

Heidi Curnow is the Operations Manager of Marketing and Communications at Numerica Credit Union and has been a NAMI Spokane Board Member for three years. She is currently the Vice President of the NAMI Spokane Board of Directors and the chair of the fundraising committee.

Emalee Gillis is a writer and blog editor. She is the author of the memoir Adventures on the Path to Living Well with a Mental Illness and has a related TEDx Talk.