Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
I met this guy recently. Actually, I’ve never met him in person. We are Facebook friends. We post on the same hiking-related FB pages. He’s a burley bear of a man, probably about my age. No, there’s nothing weird going on between us. He’s got a great sense of humor and posts some funny stuff.
We met when he posted that he would hike to the top of Mt. Washington (New Hampshire) in a dress if he raised $1,000 in contributions to a charity he helped found in 2011 called Hike for Mental Health. I donated some money. Then, when it got closer to the deadline, he posted that he was only about $200 short of his goal. I really wanted to see this guy hike in a dress, so I donated some more money. And I got a neat t-shirt.
He met his goal and hiked in a dress; he wasn’t the only one, either.
What does hiking have to do with mental health? Everything.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 1 in 4 adults suffers from depression, schizophrenia, or some other brain or behavior disorder in a given year. HIKE for Mental Health wants to help. As they say so eloquently on their website:
Hiking on backcountry trails helps many people re-connect with nature and with places within themselves that get obscured in the daily hustle and bustle. A few days in the solitude of the trail re-grounds them and helps preserve their mental health.
For people battling mental illness, however, the path to mental health is rarely so simple. Mental illness affects 1 out of 4 families in the United States, leaving those who suffer from it and their families searching for answers, cures and treatments that will allow them to experience the simple joy of living.
HIKE for Mental Health is a registered 501(c)(3) charity. Its mission is to:
Increase public awareness of the challenges and suffering faced by those afflicted by mental illness and their families.
Increase public appreciation for and responsible use of wilderness trails.
Raise funds, principally by coordinating fundraising wilderness hikes, in order to prevent and alleviate the pain caused by mental illness and maintain and preserve wilderness trails
In distributing its net proceeds, HIKE for Mental Health directs 80% to scientific research to prevent, cure, or treat mental illness and 20% to preserve wilderness trails. The group is operated entirely by volunteers; there are no paid positions. All administrative costs are covered by the volunteers.
In 2012, which was only the second year it was in existence, HIKE for Mental Health attracted 26 hikers to seven hikes which, through the support of 110 sponsors and donors, raised a total of $7,734.00. They raised the money entirely through hikes. 80% of this money went to the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. The other 20% went to the New York- New Jersey Trail Conference.
This year, they raised over $12,000 for one hike!
If you are interested in learning more about HIKE for Mental Health or would like to donate to this worthy organization, go to their website at: www.hikeformentalhealth.org.
One of their goals for 2014 is to have hikes in 14 states. When I looked on the map, I saw, much to my dismay, that there have been no hikes in Virginia! How can that be? Virginia has more miles of the Appalachian Trail than any other state. This must be corrected. Be on the lookout; I hope to sponsor a hike either later this fall or in the winter.