The eighth annual Stigma Stomp returned Saturday to raise funds and awareness for mental illness at Bloedel Donovan Park.
The Whatcom branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) hosted a Fun Run and Walk, raising between $11,000 and $15,000 with over 100 people registering, said Kim Sauter, executive director for NAMI Whatcom.
Brylie Taylor, peer coordinator and social media specialist for NAMI Whatcom, said this event highlights the importance of mental health discussions.
“Just starting those conversations is what it is all about,” she said.
Runners and walkers paid to participate in the 2.1-mile Fun Run and Walk that traversed Whatcom Falls Park. If they wanted to add a little more, participants could run an extra loop, making it 4.4 miles.
Before taking off, participants milled around tables with spokespeople from the Lake Whatcom Residential and Treatment Center (LWC), a provider of behavioral health services; Whatcom Clubhouse, a mental illness rehabilitation center; and NAMI Whatcom.
Heidi Postlewait, a participant and employee at LWC, walked the trail while wearing a blow-up flamingo costume that gave the impression she was riding the flamingo.
“I just love this population, I love my job and how often do I get to dress up like a flamingo racer,” she said.
Nathan Skinner, left, and brother Brayden Skinner, right, lead walkers in the NAMI Whatcom Stigma Stomp at Bloedel Donovan Park on Oct. 1. The 5K Fun Run and Walk is a fundraiser to help promote mental health awareness and encourage discussing mental health-related problems. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
After announcing the event's sponsors and recognizing those who worked to make it happen, Brian Estes, board president of NAMI Whatcom, asked Bellingham City Council member Kristina Michele to speak to the participants.
Michele said she frequently and accidentally stomps out stigma just by existing and succeeding as a Black woman. Michele requested that participants make a new friend on the trail.
“It is so much easier to thrive in life when you have a community and you're able to reach out to the community,” she said.
The two main classes NAMI provides are peer-to-peer, which is taught by those experiencing and successfully living with mental illness, and family-to-family, designed to support those who have a loved one struggling with mental illness. All of NAMI’s classes and services are offered for free.
NAMI Whatcom is supported largely by volunteers and sponsors. The main sponsor of this event was Bellingham sock company, Cute But Crazy. The company donates 1% of its sales to NAMI.
Hailey Wiltse, a Cute But Crazy employee, said this was the reason she wanted to work there.
“I really thought it was cool for a local business to donate to a cause like this,” she said, adding the store hopes to reclaim the word crazy.
Lori Kent, an educator and caretaker for three people with mental disabilities, said events like these are important to shed light on mental illness.
“I really love NAMI because there isn’t enough focus right now on mental health,” Kent said.
Kent said the stigmas attached to mental health are horrible but she sees improvement every year.
“Whether you’re liberal or whether you’re conservative, it’s a level playfield because everyone suffers from mental illness,” Kent said. “Every person has some sort of level of it in their family.”
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Crazy But Cute Socks donates 1% of its sales to NAMI Whatcom. Crazy But Cute Socks donates 1% of its sales to NAMI. NAMI and NAMI Whatcom are separate organizations that Cute But Crazy Socks supports differently. The story was updated to reflect this change on Oct. 1 2022 at 4:36 p.m. The Cascadia Daily News regrets the error.