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'Forward is the pace': Local partnership addressing mental health issues through running

Still I Run and The Well Being teamed up for the first-ever Starting Line Scholarship during Mental Health Awareness Month
Still I Run The Well Being Starting Line Scholarship
Posted at 1:56 PM, May 01, 2023

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Here's some Monday Motivation for you.

We are all very familiar with the physical benefits of running. Most of us understand how it can impact your mental health as well.

For two people — Sasha Wolff and Brendan Kelly — running helped save their lives.

Wolff said, "I started running for my mental health shortly after I was hospitalized for depression and anxiety about 10 years ago. When I found that connection of how good I started feeling after just getting out, I literally have not stopped running for my mental health since."

That's why Wolff was inspired to create Still I Run, a nonprofit based in Hudsonville that "promotes the benefits of running for mental health, while also working to defeat the stigma, raise awareness around the topic, and help others get started running for their mental health."

As for Kelly, he's seen those same benefits on both a personal and professional level.

"I've been a licensed clinical social worker for many years, and exercise really is probably one of the best forms of mental health treatment available on the market today," he said.

Kelly co-founded The Well Being in 2011, an "outpatient counseling practice that incorporates exercise and movement directly into a mental health treatment setting."

Wolff and Kelly wanted to use exercise as a vehicle to change people's lives in Grand Rapids, just like it has for themselves.

So, for the first time ever, their organizations are teaming up to create the Starting Line Scholarship, a 12-week program focused on helping people battle mental health issues, culminating with the LMCU Bridge Run 5k on Sunday, Sept. 17.

The application window runs from May 1–19. You can apply using this link. Space is limited to just 20 people, but they hope the reach goes much further than that.

"We want to show these 20 people, and the other people are paying attention to this group, what running can do for individuals in terms of their mental health," Kelly said.

The group will meet twice a week over the course of the 12-week program.

Wolff and Kelly laid out more details in a press release: "One meeting will occur on Tuesday evenings where the team members will participate in a circuit-style fitness class at The Well Being, followed by a mental health support group led by Kelly, a licensed master’s social worker. The other weekly meeting will take place on Saturday mornings where the group will meet outdoors for a group run. The runs will be led by a certified running coach."

They continued to say, "Participants are provided with a race entry to the Bridge Run 5k, a free pair of shoes, a GPS watch, a training jersey, a race jersey, shorts, socks, and professional running coach services."

This opportunity comes at a fitting time, considering May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

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