It was still dark, and in the cold rain I joined a dozen or more volunteers to set up tables, put up signs, put out food and set up tents. We worked quickly to beat the daylight when hundreds people would arrive for Connecticut’s first walk/run for Maternal Mental Health-The Light for Kara 5K. When PSI-CT and Light for Kara partnered to bring this event to Fairfield County, our goals were to bring awareness, spread information about resources available to moms and families, raise money, and to honor Kara Kovlakas, whose bright life was cut short by Postpartum Depression.
Despite the bitter weather, soon over half of the 450+ registrants gathered to walk, run, talk, and support one another. Some came to bring awareness of the devastating statistic that mothers and families face during pregnancy and postpartum: that 15-20% of them will experience a mental health complication. Some are on their own journey through struggles of postpartum and of parenthood, and some were there to support family or friends. Others came to raise funds for Postpartum Support International CT Chapter or Malta House of Norwalk. We all came to remember and celebrate the race’s namesake, Kara.
As day broke and the rain poured on, the children of the event participated in a fun run; the DJ played music to keep everyone’s spirits up, and pre-race speeches began. I spoke about PSI-CT’s purpose and mission and invited everyone to learn more about us. Lauren Shrage spoke warmly and lovingly about the sister she lost, her and her family’s journey through grief, and their hopes of bringing awareness and purpose to the loss of Kara. Mrs. Rhode Island, Amanda Adams, shared her journey through severe postpartum depression and anxiety to her brighter present. Lauren finished the speeches by asking the crowd to participate in a practice that has helped her . . . “place your hand over your heart, can you feel it? That is called purpose. You are alive for a reason so don’t ever give up.” After these inspiring words we all took off to walk or run along the beautiful beach at Calf Pasture Beach Park in Norwalk. While running, I found myself really focusing in on the mile marker signs, noticing the businesses who chose to support us, including our own Pam Allon, LMFT and also noticing all the moms and couples running with children in strollers, making the race a family affair.
As the last few crossed the finish line we warmed ourselves under the tent, eating pizza and visiting with each other. Over a dozen local businesses helped make this event possible through sponsorships or donations. Over 450 people registered, during which they became aware of the existence of PSI-CT, Light for Kara, and Malta House. Over $20,000 was raised for PSI-CT and Malta House. People with shared experiences from all over CT and the country came together to reflect and remember. The day far surpassed our goals.
After about a year of planning, it was really fulfilling to see how many people showed up in the pouring rain. Thank you to everyone who made this day possible. And to better weather next year!