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Save. Suicide Awareness Voices of Education

Friends and Families Gather at the Walk for Mental Health

By Pamela Irragang


People participate in SAVE’s annual Walk for Mental health for a variety of reasons. Some see it as an opportunity to help raise money for suicide prevention or awareness for mental illness. Others see an opportunity to join with friends and family to remember loved ones who have been lost to suicide. Melinda Benson walked for friends that have mental illness and says “the walk was a way for me to help people that I know with mental illness. I plan on walking this year and inviting friends to join me to get the word out.” 


walkers.jpg Whether participating individually or as a part of a larger group, you are invited to join a community of suicide survivors and mental health advocates at the 7th Annual Walk for Mental Health, presented by The Walser Foundation, August 14, 8 a.m. at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. The event raises money for SAVE’s programs and helps fight the stigma associated with mental illness.


The cost to participate in the walk is $15 per person and includes activities for children such as balloons and face painting. Free mental health resources and a SAVE store with logo products for purchase will be available. After completing the walk, each walker will be presented a yellow rose that symbolizes hope. Everyone is also invited to stay for a barbeque lunch provided by Culver’s for only $5 per person.  There will be live music from Dan Rodriguez before and after the Walk.


The Walk for Mental Health also includes the chance to become a fundraiser for suicide prevention and collect pledges and donations in support of SAVE. You can create a personalized fundraising page online and email it to friends, family, neighbors and co-workers asking them to support you with a secure, tax-deductible contribution. To get started in online fundraising, go to SAVE’s fundraising page at


Whether you are fundraising online or walking individually, another great way to help and have more fun is to invite as many people as you can to join you at the Walk and form a team.  Many teams wear coordinating T-shirts with the names of the loved ones they are walking for.  An invitation is as easy as writing in your Facebook status or sending out emails.


Karl Narveson and family began walking in 2008 after the death of their son Derek.  Karl said that when his wife Vicki and son Brandon had a goal to raise $500 with the 25 people that were walking with them. “I was surprised when we got 40 people to walk and raised over $1100!” walk_group.JPG 

Last year the family raised $1300 and were able to help three other families with Named Memorials, have their loved one’s name placed on SAVE’s Named Memorial wall. They believe that participating in the Walk ensures that their son’s legacy will live on, along with those of the other people who have been lost to suicide.   Look for them at the walk wearing orange shirts with the Derek’s slogan, “The music plays on.”


Those who are suicide survivors and who have participated in past SAVE walks say that this is a festive and fun way to celebrate the lives that have been lost to suicide and mental illness. Jake from New Hope walked for the first year in 2009 and recalls the event “as inspiring and joyful, I plan to walk again this year.”  Many survivors feel empowered by the walk and feel as if they finally have a voice.


Marit Brock told me that “the walk is a fun, festive event, a place to celebrate with others who understand.”  She and her family started walking three years ago. They walk and fundraise as “Pip’s Team,” named after Marit’s brother Phillip “Pip” Opstad whom they walk in memory of. Last year “Pip’s Team” raised $2800 for the event.


walk_flowers2.JPG Dr. John Dunne, the uncle of Sheena Driscoll who died by suicide in 2001, states “I am hopeful that the walk will continue to grow and grow and that this will be energizing and hopeful to other families going through similar circumstances.”  Dunne adds “the walk brings strength to our family.” Dr. Dunne leads the team of volunteers that distributes the yellow roses that are provided by The Flower Guys in Northeast Minneapolis. 


However you chose to participate, either by walking, running, rollerblading or biking around beautiful Lake Harriet you will be surrounded by others who have the same intentions - to remove the stigma associated with suicide and mental illness. Together we can make a difference.


walser_foundation.JPG Thank you to our generous title sponsor The Walser Foundation, proud supporter of the Walk for Mental since 2008. The Foundation provides cash grants to 501c3 organizations based in the Twin Cities who impact the community through direct service to women, families and children.


We also thank The Breadsmith, Dunn Bros. Coffee, Great Harvest Bakery, Party Safari, Culvers and Woulette’s Bakery for their support. For more information on the Walk for Mental Health, visit SAVE’s event calendar at

Editor's Note: Pamela Irrgang is a volunteer contributor to VOICES of SAVE and participates in the Walk for Mental Health.