Living with a family member who suffers from mental illness reminds me of the weather. There are sunny, cloudless days when blue skies make you optimistic about a bright future. Then the clouds gather and an unexpected rain washes away your unrealistic hopes.
I had one of those blue-sky days on Saturday, literally.
I participated in the annual NAMI Walks Oklahoma event at Lower Scissortail Park on a beautiful, sunny and cloudless day.
Sponsored by NAMI Oklahoma, hundreds of people gathered to walk in support of NAMI’s mission to end the stigma of mental health. It was a great morning.
Although I’m a huge fan of OKC’s Scissortail Park, I had my doubts about how well the newly opened Lower Park would serve the NAMI Walks event.
Too isolated. Not enough parking. An unfamiliar venue south of I-40.
Not to worry. Folks found their way to the park with no problems. And while parking was at a premium, NAMI Oklahoma arranged for a shuttle bus that would take people from free parking areas across from the Paycom Center down to the lower park.
Better yet, the weather matched the festive mood. Bright blue skies and warming temperatures.
So, we had a great time as we listened to the beat of the music selected by the DJ, connected with old acquaintances and heard stories of overcoming anxiety and depression from speakers like Ashley Ehrhart. A former Miss Oklahoma USA and a member of the OKC Thunder Girl dance team, Ehrhart advocates for mental health from her own experience.
There was a Zumba exercise class that broke out, games for kids and ‘Mabel,’ the double-decker English bus from Junction Coffee that had a line of customers all morning.
Then at 10 am, the emcee counted it down and the actual Walk began on a 2 kilometer course over the Lower Scissortail walking trails. The sight of watching hundreds of people marching north toward the upper park and eventually back south on the west side was awesome. There were dogs, strollers, children and large groups wearing matching T-shirts.
I took scores of bad photos as I walked along the course on both the east and west sides.
Anyway, my reservations about the venue were totally unfounded. It teemed with life and enthusiasm. And the bright blue sky fueled my optimism that folks living with mental illness and their families can find that better place.
At least until the next storm hits.