Every year about this time, we start to look ahead to the Fall and welcome the changing of the seasons. For me, the kickoff really gets going with the annual SpeakUp5k, now in its 8th year. I have had the privilege to take part in this event every year and it’s a date circled on the calendar that I look forward to.
The SpeakUp5k was started by Cameron Gallagher who, as a teenager in Richmond, VA, felt the stigma associated with anxiety and depression. She wanted to create an event so imbued with positivity, openness, and inclusivity that it would break the stigma of teenage mental health issues. Cameron had a vision to “speak up” and talk openly about that which she and others were suffering, to be accepted for who she was without judgment.
Tragically Cameron’s life was cut short by an undiagnosed heart condition in March of 2014. However, her vision was carried forward with the establishment of the CKG Foundation whose mission is to end the stigma of teen mental health and anxiety. CKG’s premier event is Cameron’s original idea of a community run: the SpeakUp5k. This year the SpeakUp 5k will be held in person at Richmond’s Byrd Park and virtually all over the world on Saturday, September 11th.
“When you participate in theSpeakUp5k you are not coming to an event. You are coming to have an experience! One that fills you with awareness, hope, and inspiration,” says CKG Executive Director Grace Gallagher. “We line up together without judgment, only support,” continues Grace. “Come join us on September 11th to celebrate each other’s triumphs in crossing our finish lines. Let’s walk side by side supporting each other, knowing you are not alone during the challenges on this race course called life.”
I’ve personally enjoyed this event every year since its start – running the 5k, volunteering, hanging banners, taking photographs, or working the now-famous Dominion Payroll slip ’n slide. No matter the weather it’s always a magical day filled with love. It’s a celebration of life, of each other, and our community. It has grown from a couple of thousand people to a full on 5k that winds through Byrd Park with great stops along the way including Quote Alley, the Fun-Zone, silly string, and the double slip n’ slide down a hill. People of all ages and backgrounds are welcomed and embraced.
“At Dominion Payroll we look forward to this event all year long,” states Community Engagement Director Kevin Wilson. “It’s so great to get behind the cause of teenage mental health, see the community come out in support, and have our staff engaged beyond the four walls of our office!”
I highly encourage you to register and plan to take part in this year’s event. If you are out of town, there are virtual race options. For those locally, be sure to hit Byrd Park Saturday, September 11th at 9 am for one of the best experiences you’ll have this fall.
Note: Be assured that the SpeakUp team is making every effort to hold a safe event. Masks are required for all volunteers and all runners in the start queue. Hand sanitizers will be located throughout the course and social distancing encouraged for all who participate.