Walk the Walk for Mental Health

Lace up for the annual benefit for The Community House's Counseling Center

The calendar has strode into May, a month of cherished celebrations and events, including the 18th annual Walk the Walk for Mental Health on Sunday, May 19, at The Community House, 415 W, Eighth St. in Hinsdale.

The one-mile color walk promotes mental and physical wellness and the availability of mental health services as well as ending the stigma associated with discussing mental health with friends, family and community. Dan Janowick, The Community House's executive director, said the organization devotes significant funds to defray counseling and therapy expenses for those in need.

"The Community House believes that mental health is just as important as physical health and access to services is vital to a healthy community," Janowick said. "The Walk provides nearly 25 percent of the annual revenues for the Counseling Center."

For the first time, this year's event will begin with a health expo featuring local fitness and health and wellness vendors. That will be followed by a colorful opening ceremony before the walk steps off at 8 a.m. Walkers will be greeted with splashes of color at "celebration stations" staged along the one-mile route through residential Hinsdale.

Sarah LeStrange, a member of the walk's organizing committee, said she's been busy recruiting neighbors and sharing the impact of the mental health services.

"We think the mission is so important, so I'm trying to spread the word about the mental health initiatives that The Community House has," she said.

The Monroe School PTO president will be walking alongside her husband and two young daughters. LeStrange said she particularly enjoys the friendly battle between the District 181 schools over highest walk registration levels. The school with the most participants receives the Big Blue Shoe trophy and a donation to the D181 Foundation in the school's name.

"The competition is a lot of fun - I'm hoping Monroe wins," she said. "We've been hanging magnets for every student who participates. We hung 20 magnets just last week."

Afterwards participants and their supporters can enjoy and a post-walk party with food trucks, games, face painting, music and more.

Shabana Sheikh, The Community House's director of social impact, said the funds generated by the festivities are helping deliver life-transforming care.

"Our clinicians provide much needed support for youth and their families with individual, family and group therapy along with offering parental education/support and care coordination to promote healthier families," Sheikh said.

The pioneering counseling center has been operating for more than 50 years, Janowick said. Today clients are welcomed at the main facility in Hinsdale, during the school day at Hinsdale South High School and Burr Ridge Middle School, and during the Spark after school and summer camp programs in unincorporated Willowbrook, providing specialized support at a fraction of standard rates.

"Our licensed therapists are one of the few options in eastern DuPage County for families that are uninsured or under-insured, and all of our clients are charged a fee based on their income and for as low as $1 per session," Janowick said. "In the first three months of 2024, our therapists saw 88 clients and provided more than 450 sessions of healing therapy, with an average per session fee of $7. The actual cost to organization is more than $100 per session and the Walk, foundation support, and individual donors make up the difference."

The cost to register is $30 for adults and $20 for children age 3 and older. Registration, including a custom tie-dye T-shirt is $45 and $35, respectively. Participants are encouraged to form teams and raise money from supporters. Prizes for fundraising range from a Walk the Walk water bottle for $100 to a Walk the Walk Heavy Tote Bag and a Community House Keys to the House membership for $1,000 or more (along with all the other prizes).

LeStrange said she's proud to be involved in the cause and proud of the local spirit of giving.

"We're so lucky to have The Community House. When there's something like this, people really do like to participate," she said, marveling at the sliding scale need-based pricing at which mental health counseling is offered. "As a parent, I can tell you, kids are going through a lot of different things and sometimes need this help. I think it's really special."

Visit http://www.thecommunityhouse.org to register or for more information.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean