Iris Dunham: Walking for Mental Health Awareness
Last December, Morgan School senior Iris Dunham decided that she wanted to do some kind of event to raise awareness about the importance of mental health. Five months later, Iris’ idea has come to fruition thanks to the Your Mind Matter Walkathon she organized that is set for May 7.
The 5K walk will be held rain or shine on Sunday, May 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Peter’s Complex.
“There is no registration fee, but we do ask for people to raise a minimum of $20 through sponsorships or pledges,” Iris says.
A registration link was posted in the Facebook group “All Things Clinton,” which can be found by searching “Iris” in the group.
All the money raised by the event will go to The Jed Foundation (JED).
“It’s a nonprofit organization that provides funding to schools to help with mental illnesses and helps teachers understand how to help, as well,” Iris explains.
Per the organization’s website, through different programs, “JED believes that we can promote mental health and prevent suicide among teens and young adults by equipping them as individuals, strengthening their campuses, and mobilizing the communities and influences in their lives.”
“We’re really hoping to raise money through sponsors and pledges. We’re hoping for a big turnout, and we encourage people to make teams that join,” Iris says. “The first 75 people who register get a free t-shirt, too.”
Iris says that the day will feature more than just walking.
“We’re going to have different community groups there with booths to hand out resources. There’ll be speakers, face painting, and refreshments, too,” she says.
To help support the theme of raising awareness about mental illness, Iris says that there will be helpful resources handed out to those in attendance.
“I know our team has put together postcards with text lines and hotlines for different mental illnesses, and I know we’ve got stress balls, too,” Iris says. “We wanted different things that can help calm you down, and we wanted tangible things for people to take home, too.”
Iris says she was inspired to hold the event after observing how much mental health was a topic of conversation among her peers, in addition to seeing areas where there might be a disconnect.
“Over the past four years, mental health has been a big topic, but it’s always been adults talking about it to students,” says Iris. “I got the idea to show other students we have a voice and we can use it and make a difference.”
Iris started putting her plan into action in December 2022, when she met with her advisor.
“The idea then got a lot bigger and a lot better than what I first imagined,” Iris says with a laugh.
According to Iris, once businesses and other groups in the community got wind of the planned 5K, interest really took off.
“Getting started was tricky, but once I talked to [Keri] Hagness, our principal, it got easy. She was super helpful,” Iris says.
With businesses on board as sponsors, Iris says the main goal in the weeks leading up to the event has been to get as many people registered as possible.
“Our focus now is to get more people. We really want a lot of students and members of the community to come,” Iris says.
As a current senior at Morgan, Iris has been quite involved in various endeavors at the school. She has been a member of student government, lacrosse, cross country, the spirit squad, and has also been a tutor. Recently, Iris decided to attend Marist College to study communications with a concentration in journalism.
While working to organize the walk, Iris has discovered a new side of her hometown that she’s really come to appreciate.
“Definitely, working on the walk has revealed to me that everyone here gets on board with ideas that help people,” Iris says. “And they support you in any way they can.”