Late last year, Adele reached out to me on Facebook to tell me about her event, the Upward Spiral. It’s a 24-hour run/walk to raise awareness around depression, self-harm, suicide, and bullying. Instantly I loved her mission and wanted to know more. So, I asked Adele to share her story: Her history with mental health, why she created the Upward Spiral, and what it is exactly. I hope you enjoy her story as much as I did!
I served in the military for eight years, and was deployed to Iraq in 2004. While deployed, I was hit by IEDs (roadside bombs) on three different occasions. During one of them, I was injured, and my battle buddy lost his right eye.
I have struggled with PTSD and survivor’s guilt for years. It wasn’t until about five years ago that I really started to face my demons, and used running as a tool to help me cope.
Over the years, I have met countless people that have helped with my PTSD. In 2013, I had the opportunity to be a Road Warrior for the Fifth Third River Bank Run 25k race. That was a pivotal point for me. It showed me that I could use my running to help other people. From that point on, I have been running for some sort of charity or cause. It has to be one of the most fulfilling things I can do with my life.
In the fall of 2014, I witnessed a fellow mother struggling to help her daughter who was being bullied at school and was dealing with self-harm. After seeing that, I decided I wanted to help the kids in our town in the only way I knew how – by running! I decided I would run for an entire 24 hours on a 200-meter track to prove that dealing with depression and bullying is a 24-hour cycle and you can feel like you are going in circles. (Backstory- I had been running ultras for a while, so 24 hours wasn’t as daunting as it may sound!!)
With the help of a few friends, we quickly planned the first Upward Spiral event for 2015. My goal
was to just run, but my friends helped me connect with Allegan Community Mental Health, and a few other organizations to have resources available for people. I also wanted to keep the event free, because I didn’t want anyone to feel isolated because they couldn’t afford the admission fee. In addition, we gave away free tee shirts, had free food, and had activities set up along with all different kinds of resources to help people. And it was a success!! We had over 150 people show up and so much support from the community!
With 2015 completed, we set our sights on 2016. We decided to keep it for the same time of year, February, since the winter can be so rough on people with mental health. We had an even larger turnout, and had enough donations to be able to keep it free!
So here we are, planning 2017. This year we plan on having even more activities and organizations on hand. I could tell you countless stories of how many people were affected by Upward Spiral. Just one of the many stories is about a little boy who wanted to commit suicide and an aunt who had no idea how to help him. Because they came to Upward Spiral, she was able to get in touch with professionals that could help this beautiful little 8-year-old boy!! And the stories go on and on!!
My vision is to find some huge corporate sponsors that would allow me to travel and help other communities set up Upward Spirals all over the country. I want to help as many people as I possibly can with their mental health.
This year’s Upward Spiral will be held indoors at the Allegan Fieldhouse starting February 17 at 3 p.m. to February 18 at 3 p.m. And, as always, the event is free!
Make a connection with a local service group. We use our local Rotary club to run all the donations and sponsorships through. WE are not a 501(c)(3) yet, so we use the Rotary tax ID and their account.
Have at least 4-6 people that are just as passionate about the cause. This is crucial! Having passionate people will help everything go along smoother.
Connect with a school or organization that will let you use their track or fieldhouse (preferably for free) to host the event.
Start planning at least six months out. The first year we only had three months to plan, and it was crazy!
Don’t be afraid to ask for money and for things for free. If the event is free, this is a must! It takes at least $5,000 to be successful if you want to give away tees, food and have activities at the event.
Connect with mental health groups, support groups, and suicide coalitions. Invite them to have a table at the event to share their resources with the event.