The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Montgomery County (NAMI MC) is hosting a community walk at Rio Lakefront in Gaithersburg on May 20 during National Mental Health Awareness Month. NAMIWalks Spring United Day of Hope aims to strengthen community support, reduce stigma and raise funds for free classes and peer groups for those in the county living with mental illness and their family members, according to organizers. 

MoCo360 journalists and other staffers will be taking part in NAMIWalks 2023 and invites the community to join their team by walking with them or making a donation. Onsite registration begins at 9 a.m., and the MoCo360 team will congregate in front of Silver Diner. Dogs are welcome and the event will happen rain or shine.  

The route around the lake is just shy of a mile, but participants are encouraged to walk multiple laps at their discretion. To kick things off, there will be a Zumba warmup and corporate sponsors  buzzing around offering refreshments and information on mental health resources, as well as debuting a Serenity Spot by Adventist HealthCare along the path at Rio.  

Deputy director and walk manager Steve Robinson said this walk is the biggest fundraiser of the year for NAMI MC and is the reason the group can offer free local programs such as classes, resources, peer-led support groups and mental health education. The group’s goal is to raise $175,000 with the walk.

“Helping to keep the programs free helps us reach more people in the community,” Robinson said. “It helps us have more equity; it helps us be more diverse. And that’s what we want to do. We want to try to reach everybody in the county, no matter your background, your culture. We want to help everybody and that’s what this event really allows us to do.” 

NAMI MC began in 1978 when five local families sought to provide support and education to those with mental illness and their loved ones. According to NAMI MC, over 210,000 individuals in Montgomery County live with mental illness. 


Mimi Brodsky Kress, a member of the NAMI MC board, said the walk last year had “a really positive energy and [it was] just nice to see a real cross -section of the county out there.” she said. 

“I think [it’s important to come] together as a community to do the walk with individuals struggling with mental illness, caregivers, loved ones, corporate sponsors, people in the community, local legislators and state legislators to all get out there and say, you know, ‘Mental health is health, no matter how you look at it,” Kress said. 

Executive Editor Anne Tallent said MoCo360 consistently works to address mental health in its journalism. She pointed to recent coverage of efforts to fight the stigma of seeking treatment, adult ADHD, therapy needs within the Deaf community, dementia, and research on treating depression with mushrooms


“I know from our readers and sources, as well as from my own experience and my family’s experience, how incredibly common it is to struggle with mental health—and how much those struggles hurt us as individuals and communities,” Tallent said. “MoCo360’s public-service mission calls for raising awareness of problems that need to be addressed, and joining our neighbors in NAMIWalks serves that mission. Our team and I are looking forward to meeting readers there.”  

Stephanie Rosen, executive director of NAMI MC, said she envisions a day when everybody living with mental health conditions can live a healthy life with a community that cares.  

“Doing a walk or a public event like this helps identify and bring to light how many lives are touched by mental health conditions,” Rosen said. “And how many people and the community surrounding it care about these issues and the individuals living with mental health conditions and their families and caregivers who love them.”