“A symbol of our journey,” is how film and television actress Amy Yasbeck, this year’s Grand Marshal, described the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI’s) Annual Walk Fundraiser.  Speaking to a crowd of over 400 NAMI supporters and friends at Cambier Park on March 23, 2013, Ms. Yasbeck shared how mental illness has affected her family and how NAMI, through its programs and events, such as the Walk, honors the journey of the individuals and families who live with serious and persistent mental illness.

Recognizing the range of impact that mental illness can have on families, Ms. Yasbeck championed the community support and significant, special programs that NAMI provides.  “All of NAMI’s programs touch my heart in a different way,” said Ms. Yasbeck.  She noted that NAMI has been instrumental in helping to remove the stigma of mental illness, by accepting it as a uniqueness and not a flaw, and by providing a safe and welcoming environment for individuals and families.

Ms. Yasbeck’s mother suffered from bipolar disorder and her niece lost her struggle with mental illness.  The NAMI Walk, she said, is an opportunity for honoring the light and spirit of all who have been affected by mental illness.  “We’ve all experienced [some sense of] loss [because of mental illness], but today we’ve found each other.”

Together with Walk co-chairs Rosemary Pace and Rosemarie Kirk, Ms. Yasbeck led the enthusiastic walkers along the 2½-mile course through downtown Naples.  Many of the participants were part of teams that collectively raised money in support of NAMI and its programs.  The annual Walk is NAMI of Collier County’s largest fundraiser.  Kathryn Leib Hunter, NAMI’s Executive Director reports that, to date, $98,000 has been raised for the 2013 Walk.  Rosemary Pace’s Walk team, Team Favoloso, was again the highest grossing team.

“Team Favoloso has been the highest grossing team for the past nine out of our 10 years of participation,” said Ms. Pace.  “We have raised over $173,000 in 10 years and due to the efforts of all the Walk teams we have reduced the stigma of mental illness in Collier County through education and allowing access to NAMI’s programs for all who need them.”

Through education, support and advocacy, NAMI works to improve the quality of life of the 1 in 4 families in the community who are affected by mental illness.  From support groups, to family member training and support, to Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for local law enforcement officers, NAMI works to improve the quality of life of persons affected by serious and persistent mental illness and their families.

“We would like to thank all of our Walk teams, sponsors and our Grand Marshal, Amy Yasbeck, for helping to make the 2013 NAMI Walk a success,” said Ms. Hunter.   “The funds raised are essential to helping NAMI continue its programs and to provide all of them free of charge.”

For more information about NAMI’s programs or to make a contribution, please contact Kathryn Hunter at (239) 434-6726.

Submitted by Rosemarie Kirk