More than 1,000 walkers will lace up their shoes and take to the paths at the Educational Testing Service on Rosedale Road in Lawrence Township for NAMI Mercer’s 12th annual fundraiser walk-a-thon on May 5.
The first walkers will step off at noon on the 5K walk-a-thon. Participants can walk the entire 3-mile-long walk-a-thon route or just part of it. Walking the full 5K is not necessary to participate, and walkers of any age can take part.
The money raised by the walk-a-thon will support NAMI Mercer’s programs, which are offered at no cost to individuals and families dealing with mental illness. They include support groups and a helpline that assists callers in finding treatment options and educational programs.
This year’s walk-a-thon wraps up Mercer County’s year-long “Stigma Free Mercer” campaign, which seeks to remove the stigma of mental illness, NAMI Mercer officials said. NAMI Mercer is an affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Mercer County launched the “Stigma Free Mercer” campaign in May 2018. Mercer County employees signed a pledge calling for increased awareness and greater understanding of mental illness and addiction, promising to work to eliminate the stigma of mental illness.
Mercer County officials also took the “Stigma Free Mercer” campaign on the road, visiting each of the 12 towns in Mercer County and obtaining resolutions of support for the campaign from each town’s governing body.
Meanwhile, each of the 12 mayors in the Mercer County towns has been invited to serve as honorary NAMI Walks Mercer County co-chairs, and to lead the walkers across the starting line.
The walk-a-thon is a major fundraising event for NAMI Mercer. This year’s goal is $150,000 – about half of which has already been raised. Since its inception 11 years ago, the event has raised more than $1 million in individual and corporate donations.
But the NAMI Mercer Walks event is not just about the 5K walk. There are other activities planned, as well.
There will be children’s activities, such as games, craft projects, a robotics demonstration and even a chance to meet Boomer, the Trenton Thunder baseball team mascot. Costumed re-enactors from New Jersey Renaissance Fair will be on hand, too.
A wellness fair also is planned, where local vendors and organizations will provide health and wellness information and services to walk-a-thon participants, such as the Mercer County Division of Mental Health.
The list also includes representatives from the Princeton Fitness & Wellness, Penn Medicine Princeton House Behavioral Health, and Disability NJ.
To register to walk, form a team or join a team, or to make a donation, please visit www.namiwalks.org/mercercounty.