It’s been nearly a decade since Mosaic Mental Health began its Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies 5K run. But the organization has yet to cross the finish line when it comes to raising money as a way to put an end to the stigma surrounding mental health.
The facility, formerly known as Riverdale Mental Health Clinic, hosts its annual run April 22 at Van Cortlandt Park’s track.
Over the last nine years, executive director Donna Friedman and her team at Mosaic developed the run not only to promote the services the organization brings to help those with mental illnesses, but to promote a healthy lifestyle all around.
“One of our messages that we want to give to the community is of ‘happy minds, healthy bodies,’” Friedman said. “We strongly believe that a strong body helps to make a strong mind.”
The money raised at every 5K goes toward underfunded services, or those not funded at all.
That includes programs for older adults, its Family Support Center at 5676 Riverdale Ave., and the services Mosaic provides at various schools, such as the Rosalyn Yalow Charter School in Mount Eden.
Over the years, the 5K has raised about $10,000 annually. Last year, Mosaic raised $35,000, thanks in part to a single hefty $25,000 anonymous donation.
Friedman hopes Mosaic attracts an “angel” to come through with another large donation this year.
“We are facing an ongoing challenge to meet the great needs of the community in terms of mental health, and balancing that with getting enough funding to provide that,” she said. “So it is my hope that someone out there will recognize just how important this is, and maybe support us in a bigger way.”
In the lead up to Sunday’s event, the excitement has begun among members of Mosaic’s board of directors who happen to call Riverdale home.
Board vice president William Weinbaum described the run as a chance to reflect on how the community can come together for a common purpose.
“It’s a wonderful thing to help other people, and I think that’s an important message of the 5K, that we’re out there having a good time,” he said. “But we know that we’re doing our part to help people and that’s very rewarding, very gratifying for all of us.”
Meanwhile board treasurer Richard Conley said watching first-time attendees react to the 5K is always unforgettable.
“I like seeing their enthusiasm when they realize what they’ve become involved in,” he said.
“Everyone’s eyes are aglow with enthusiasm given the nature of the event and what it’s supporting. It’s a real feel-good vibe.”
Friedman’s most memorable moment each year is watching clients who have daily struggles at Mosaic reach the finish line — something that moves her to tears.
“It makes me hopeful that we can make a difference, and right now in the world, we need a lot of that,” Friedman said. “Getting that dosage of hope helps me do what I do as executive director.”
Aside from community unity, Mosaic’s 5K also is about putting an end to the societal stigma against mental illness.
“This is an important event that is an effort to deal with that,” Weinbaum said.
“To have people who are just clients and people who are working in the field together making a statement without even saying anything, just by being together with people from the community. That statement is that there should be no stigma.”
Friedman has led Mosaic for 25 years, and in that time, it’s only been in the last nine years that she feels people have been able to come out of the shadows of their hardships and be honored for their journey.
“There was a time when the stigma of mental illness prevented people to think about having events where everyone participated, and that barrier was broken down,” Friedman said. “I think that we have learned is … when you bring everyone together who is involved, there is greater awareness, greater support.
“There’s a feeling of validating people as human beings, and not labeling them as people with mental illness. And also I think there’s a realization that there isn’t ‘us’ and ‘them.’ It is ‘we.’”