ALLEGAN, Mich., -- Adele Garcia knows what it's like to try to run away from issues that are unavoidable. The mother of two was deployed to Iraq with her National Guard unit shortly after 9/11. When she returned a year later, she said she was fighting depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). After trying to resume her normal schedule, Garcia realized she needed to seek professional help.
"I think I was in denial," Garcia told FOX 17 News. "I wanted to come back and get right into being a mom, back to my old job...I didn't think anything was wrong with me. I thought I was fine."
Along with getting help, Garcia picked up running, an activity that's also proved therapeutic for her.
"I run a lot," she said. "Really running for me, is like my sanity."
Recently, when Garcia decided to begin an initiative to help others dealing with issues like depression, suicide and bullying, she chose a 24-hour endurance run to make a statement.
"For a lot of people, when you are depressed or suicidal, or being bullied, it's not something that goes away," explained Garcia. "So many times, people feel like they're in a downward spiral... why not uplift them and put them on an upward spiral?"
The effort, dubbed "Upward Spiral", attracted several other runners and supporters who also wanted to help Garcia raise awareness for issues that are commonly swept under the rug.
"No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to bring light to it, and she's brave enough," said Kathy Sebright, another runner who took part in the event. "She just wants to tell the world and raise awareness for it, and I think it's wonderful."
Garcia held the first Upward Spiral Endurance Run on Feb.20-21st at the Allegan Fieldhouse. Over the course of 24 hours, she managed to run/walk the entire time and complete just over 55 miles.
Various agencies set up tables and were on hand during the event to provide information and resources to help those dealing with mental health issues and bullying.
"I really would like to see this become something that's in all communities," said Garcia. "I already know that people have been helped by it already and I'm so excited to see how many more people can be helped."
As the February Pay it Forward Person of the Month, Garcia will receive a $500 dollar check, courtesy of Independent Bank.
To learn more about Upward Spiral, click here.
Know someone who FOX 17 should feature as our next Pay it Forward Person of the Month? Nominate them here.