Updated: Jun 21
Author: Sriteja Kataru
Have you ever thought about the actual path you are walking on, as you stroll along a trail? It's always there, guiding your steps, yet rarely does it garner attention amidst the surrounding greenery and scenic views. Still, without that path, we'd lose our way. It silently underpins every step of our walk, much like mental health guides every moment of our daily lives.
Think about it. Mental health too stands silently in the field of our overall well-being, waiting to be recognized. It's only when we veer off the path that we truly understand its importance. This realization propelled us at VT Seva to host a walkathon along the Los Alamitos Creek Trail at Almaden Lake Park, turning each step into a statement of recognition for mental health. So, in that sense, this was not a mere walk in the park. It was a journey towards illuminating the often overlooked 'path' of mental health.
Overall, it was a great success, with over 100 people attending the event to walk for a great cause. Many more people donated to the event, raising tens of thousands of dollars.
The event took off at 9 am with insightful words from two distinguished guest speakers. First to share her wisdom was Dr. Kalpana Nathan, a renowned doctor in the field of mental health. As a clinical professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, Dr. Nathan emphasized the significance of mental well-being. She enlightened us about understanding and responding to stress - a common facet of life that can, if not addressed properly, have detrimental effects on mental health. She explained how simple social acts such as sharing a meal with friends and family can enhance one’s mental wellness.
Following Dr. Nathan was our second speaker, Ms. Kala, who is an integral coach. With her empathetic demeanor and relatable anecdotes, she effectively conveyed the challenges faced by high schoolers. Discussing issues such as rejection and other difficult situations, Ms. Kala offered supportive advice on how to navigate these stressful times.
As the clock struck 10am, we found ourselves standing at the start of the Los Alamitos Creek Trail, surrounded by splendid views of the lake. The day was partly cloudy, the sun playing a game of hide and seek behind the clouds, casting a soft, filtered light on the trail.
Walking together, we held signs echoing powerful messages like “Mental health matters!” and “It’s okay not to be okay.” The solidarity we felt was overwhelming - a true testament to the importance of community in supporting mental health.
On either side of the trail, nature had dressed the park in its best attire. The generous spring rains had given life to a vibrant display of wildflowers. Their colors appeared even more intense under the shifting light, their beauty accentuated by the cloudy sky. At every turn, we’d come up to the creek flowing along the trail, its rhythm a calming presence.
We walked two and half miles before making our way back to the starting point, but not before passing through a grove of fragrant eucalyptus.
However, we weren't alone on this journey. The trail was a hub of activity, with joggers and cyclists enjoying the day, their faces animated by the invigorating effect of the cool, fresh air. Among the passing faces, one caught our attention - David Clifford, the founder of Brain Ablaze, a non-profit organization dedicated to epilepsy advocacy. Upon noticing our group and the cause we championed, he slowed his pace, intrigued. We shared our VTSeva’s mission, our passion for mental health awareness and how we use events like this walkathon to bring attention to it. His eyes lit up at this, and he voiced interest in collaborating for future events. His enthusiasm added a new layer of excitement to the day, leaving us with the anticipation of what such a collaboration could achieve.
Overall, our second annual walkathon was more than just a morning stroll; it was a testament to the power of community, and an affirmation of our shared commitment to mental health. The shifting play of light and shade, the vibrant blossoms, the ebb and flow of the creek, and the meaningful encounter all made for a day to remember.