National Alliance on Mental Illness walk fundraiser in Lanesboro

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(ABC 6 News) – In Lanesboro, Minn. members of the community walked and raised money for National Alliance on Mental Illness organization Saturday afternoon.

The organization, also known as NAMI, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, working to raise awareness for mental health and provide resources to those struggling.

Saturday, participants in the NAMI Walk, walked one mile to show support, and donated to the good cause.

Many family members and friends shared stories of loved ones and gave advice for how the community can support those suffering with a mental illness.

“I think we need to start gently, I think we need to lead with kindness and grace, act with compassion and treat each other gently,” said Evan Hansen, who attended the event. “I think now more than ever, we’ve all been going through a rough time all over the world and I think we need to take a breath and treat each other with some compassion.”

Hansen, from Rochester, participated in the event and has worked alongside NAMI for a few years.

For Hansen, the cause hits close to home.

Related: Rochester man portaging for suicide prevention

Having lost three friends of his own to suicide, Hansen decided he needed to do something about it. Using a canoe, he invited people, even strangers, to add names of those they had lost to suicide to the canoe. Accumulating 660 names, Hansen carried the canoe 313 miles in 2021, over the course of 35 days.

“I hoped the actions I took would help people feel that they’re loved, that they’re not alone and that they’re not a burden,” Hansen said.

“I hoped that if someone saw a stranger carrying this for them that they would understand that fully and also realize that someone carrying a canoe for 300 miles, that’s what a burden looks like not what someone sees in a mirror.”

The canoe is now a walking memorial.

For more information on NAMI and how to donate, click here.

To visit Evan Hansen’s Facebook Page, Portage for Purpose, click here.