National Alliance on Mental Illness Stark County affiliate held its annual fund-raising march in North Canton.

NORTH CANTON The color orange was the dominant sight Sunday afternoon in Hoover Park as hundreds of T-shirt-wearing participants gathered to carry out the annual fundraising march to benefit the National Alliance on Mental Illness Stark County affiliate.

"We raised over $35,000 this year between sponsorships and donations," Kay Raga, executive director of NAMI Stark County affiliate, said. "We have sponsors throughout the mental health community and businesses."

The local NAMI provides nonclinical services for local residents who are afflicted with mental health issues and their loved ones. NAMI provides support services, educational programs and advocacy.

Marchers assembled at Hoover Park and walked along the Stark County Park District trail in the North Canton area. Participants wore orange T-shirts with the lettering "Moving Forward for Mental Health."

"This is our big fundraiser that we do every year," Missy Reed, first vice president of the NAMI Stark County affiliate board, said. "This is how we do the educational portion, educating the public as well as the people who are struggling."

NAMI is a nationwide advocacy organization which functions in behalf of people with mental illnesses. It is based in Arlington, Va.

Regarding the turnout for the Sunday walk, "I would say we are about 400,"  Raga said. "We did much better this year. We always recognize the top fund-raising team, the top fund-raising individual and the team with the most participants."

Neuro Behavioral Clinical Research's Team Research was the top-funding team; Breanna Blackford,  a member of the Neuro Behavioral Clinic Research staff, was the top fund-raising individual and Coleman Behavioral Health had the most participants. The winners receive a trophy and certificate.

For the purpose of this event, there are fund raisers and sponsors. The NAMI fund raising project's largest sponsor was Peg's Foundation of Hudson which contributed $10,000.

NAMI Stark County affiliate uses various locations provided by community partners in the area to deliver its services.

"Everything that we do is at no cost to the person," Raga said.

  Reach Malcolm at 330-580-8305


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