William F. O'Brien
Special to The Sun
The Oklahoma Chapter National Alliance for Mental Illness, which is known by the acronym “NAMI,” recently had a luncheon at Crossings Community Center to begin to prepare for a fundraising walk May 18 at Stars and Stripes Park in Oklahoma City. Eileen Morefield, the president of the Edmond-North Oklahoma City NAMI affiliate, served as mistress of ceremonies for the event, and she spoke of how NAMI had helped her and her family and said that the funds raised from the walk will be used to fund programs that help Oklahomans who suffer from mental illness and their families.
She also thanked Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel and former Lt. Gov. Jari Askins for attending the luncheon and for their support for NAMI. Oklahoma City Police Capt. Robert Nash who heads a Crisis Intervention Team that works with mentally ill individuals, also was singled out for recognition by Morefield. And Nash has provided training to police officers in neighboring communities regarding how to work with the mentally ill.
Traci Cook, who is the executive director of NAMI Oklahoma, also addressed the gathering and explained that she initially had gotten involved in NAMI through the Edmond-North Oklahoma City affiliate, and has participated in the walk every year since the first one 12 years ago. The first walk was in Hafer Park in Edmond, but in recent years it has been in Stars and Stripes Park due to an increase in the number of people who participate in it.
Cook also shared about how NAMI has done outreach to the Latino and Native American populations of Oklahoma. Gail Israel of NAMI, who is coordinator of the walk, told the attendees that it is anticipated that more than $165,000 will be raised through it, and that all walkers who raise more than $100 will receive a “NAMIWalks” T-shirt.
The walk is a nationwide event that will include 84 communities throughout the nation, Israel reported, and there are corporate sponsorships available to local companies who would like to participate. And the programs that will be funded by the monies raised were listed in the packet that the guests received at the luncheon. They include the family to family program that consists of a 12-week course for families, partners and friends of people who live with mental illness that is taught by trained NAMI volunteers. There is also a family support group program in which family members of those suffering from mental illness can talk freely about their problems and help one another through their individual experiences. NAMI Basics is a six-week course for parents and caregivers of children and adolescents who are mentally ill.
WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is an Oklahoma City attorney.