SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Hundreds gathered in Lackawanna County for a different kind of race Saturday.
It was the fourth annual 5Kate run and walk in Scranton Saturday morning. The event is helping make a difference in the community.
Nay Aug Park was more packed than usual on Saturday. Filled up with face painting, pumpkin painting, pony rides and treats, it was the perfect fall day to attend the Mental Health Fair and the 5Kate run and walk.
“I’m overwhelmed with everyone that came today. It’s amazing to see. It’s like everyone’s getting a big hug. Those that are suffering and to know we really do care and that we want you to talk to us about it and that we are going to help and make things better,” Sarah Shoener, race executive director and licensed professional counselor, said.
The event was hosted by the Katie Foundation, shining a light on mental illness. 29-year-old Katie Shoener took her own life in 2016 after losing the battle to bipolar disorder. The 5Kate takes place to raise more awareness about mental illness.
“I think there’s a lot of stigma. I think people are embarrassed to talk about it. People that need support don’t get the support they need because they don’t want to share the fact that it’s mental illness,” volunteer and supporter Tammy McHale said.
Hundreds of people came out to the event, many in part, because they say mental illness hits home for them.
“I’m out here because I have my own personal story of a son that I lost to mental illness. He took his life a couple years ago after suffering for so many years and after hearing what the Katie Foundation was doing, I knew I wanted to be part of that cause,” McHale said.
“My daughter Katie had bipolar disorder and died from suicide after living with it for 11 years and she was a wonderful, beautiful person and that’s what we want to do. Have some good come out of something evil like that. God can overcome everything and turn it to the good,” Ed Shoener, Katie’s dad, said.
Ed Shoener tells Eyewitness News he chooses to help others to let them know they’re not alone.
“Oftentimes people that live with a mental illness feel as though they’re isolated and that nobody understands or cares about them and that has to change,” Shoener said.
Although runners and walkers put on their best costumes for the 5Kate, “We also say don’t mask mental illness. We want to unmask mental illness. A lot of people feel like they have to put a mask on every day and can’t be themselves, but we definitely don’t want you to hide,” Shoener said.
Half of the proceeds raised on Saturday will go to the local Scranton chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Illness. The other half will go to the behavioral health initiative at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.