Today, we have received donations of just over 30% of our walk dollar goal (that’s almost $69,000 and counting!!) and have 108 teams. What have you done to help?

I wanted to share the letter I sent to everyone I know. Telling our story has such an impact – have you shared your story? Do it now!
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sara

Hi, friends.

I recently joined the Board of Directors for a very important non-profit organization. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) works diligently to fill in the gaps where insurance, medical intervention and other traditional avenues fall short in helping people with mental illnesses and their families. NAMI offers a referral line to help guide people through the confusing maze of our mental health system and much, much more.

Did you know that mental illness is on the rise in young people? That whether you realize it or not, someone you know most likely suffers from some form of debilitating mental illness? That children with depression and anxiety are 20 times more likely to commit suicide than mentally healthy teenagers?

It doesn’t have to be that way.
I envision a brighter future for Sara and others like her that struggle to survive. I want her to thrive. Society has often stigmatized those with mental illness, making it difficult to find help and services. Legislators need to hear that 1 in 6 of their constituents has suffered from a mental illness at some time in their lives. Mentally ill people are SICK, just like someone with breast cancer or diabetes. They can’t just shake it off, make it stop, get over it. They don’t just make this up to get out of responsibilities. And we all need to be part of the solution.

You Can Help.
The NAMI NW Walk is fast approaching. On Sunday, May 17th, I will be walking for Sara. My 16 year old daughter suffers from severe, sometimes debilitating anxiety. She is an amazingly bright young woman, a talented artist, she dresses like a character out of an anime cartoon and charms everyone she meets. People often tell me “She can’t be anxious – look how much fun she is when she’s with us.” But her anxiety overwhelms her at times, so much so that she cannot leave the house, she stays up all night with worries, and she stops doing the things she enjoys. She cries a lot, and her anxiety puts a huge amount of stress on our family. Even many of her close family members and friends do not understand that this is something that she can’t just “snap out of”.

So what does NAMI do?
NAMI is a grassroots organization that provides support, referrals and education. There are programs for those struggling with mental illness as well as family programs to help people like me who struggle to help a loved one (see http://www.NAMI.org/Oregon for details). And it’s FREE. Not a penny is collected from those in need. The participation of people like you makes it possible to continue these programs. NAMI Oregon wants to add new programs centering on young people in the near future. Help me make those dreams a reality.

NAMI also is a strong voice with the Oregon legislature as well as nationally, to make sure that promises of government support, housing for those in need and services that provide long term solutions are front of mind as time goes by. When those with mental illness do not receive treatment and support, they wind up on the street, out of work, and in emergency rooms, creating a huge financial drain on societal resources. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Money is tight everywhere and most government agencies are being asked to cut budgets by as much as 30%. That means the most vulnerable people in society are likely to be affected greatly by these cuts. Mental health services are harder to find. Some people have to fight just to get medical treatment, many people can’t afford their medications, let alone counseling and other support.

That’s where you come in.
Read Their Stories: at naminwwalk.wordpress.org you will read the stories of people with mental illness and their struggles, as well as stories like mine – of people who advocate for their loved ones to help them live better lives. Check out the Why We Walk stories. These people are amazing.

Can’t afford much?
It only costs $24 to provide a workbook for a class participant. A donation of $100 helps put on a seminar for families that want to help a loved one. Even $5 helps supply educational materials that can give someone help, hope and piece of mind. Give what you can. All of the teachers and volunteers are paid absolutely nothing for their participation – every penny goes toward helping those in need. And every penny makes a difference.

My goal of $500 raised will easily be met if we all pitch in $25. That’s a weeks worth of Starbucks. Or a tank of gas. You can donate securely to my team online at:

http://www.NAMI.org/NAMIWALKS09/NOR/teamred

If you’d rather send a check, please send it to:
Attn: Michelle Madison, NAMI Oregon, 3550 SE Woodward Street, Portland, OR 97202. Make it payable to NAMI Oregon and be sure to put: for Rachel Petzold’s Team, NAMIWalk somewhere in your communication so my team gets credit.

Can’t Afford to Donate?
Then walk with me and help me find others to walk, too. Or, volunteer to hand out water and sign up walkers at the event. Be a cheerleader for the large number of mentally ill and other participants that walk in our event. Last year was my first opportunity to participate in the walk and I’m excited to not only be a walker but the volunteer coordinator again this year. Yes, Rachel likes to boss people around…

Thank you for your support of me and the girl with the cat ears. And my many friends, old and new, who show me that every moment here is precious, as are the people that fill them.

Thank you – donate today!!
Rachel Chereck Petzold

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