2013 was a tremendous year for HIKE for Mental Health. Our mission to end the stigma surrounding mental illness was fueled by 131 hikers and 495 sponsors, a five-fold increase over the 26 hikers and 110 sponsors in the prior year.
From ten different states as far away as California, Virginia and Pennsylvania, another three dozen hikers converged in New Hampshire in August, sporting their orange as they clambered to the summit of Mt. Washington on a hike founded in 2012 by Sue Twombley and promoted by Laurie Lawrence.
New Jersey New York Active People, led by Mariano Barrera, partnered with us on a hike in Harriman State Forest in NY in May.
In the fall, Stancy Duhamel and the Harlem Valley Appalachian Trail Community co-sponsored a hike that showcased the beauty of their precious valley.
The Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority from Dartmouth College braved the elements on a hike in Hanover, NH in May, thanks to organizer Phoebe Kurtzman.
Our autumn Sunfish Pond hike near the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border featured a reading by Susan jackrabbit Letcher from the book Southbound, in which she and her sister Lucy chronicle the first half of their celebrated barefoot yo-yo of the Appalachian Trail.
And there were other hikes and many other hikers, too numerous to list. Or maybe not. Check out the full listing of our class of 2013 hikers (as well as a few eager class of 2014 hikers who got an early jump on their sign-up).
Thanks to all the hikers and their sponsors who helped to spread the word and knock down the stigma associated with mental illness! Thanks, too, to Donna Chapman and Martin Hunley, our unofficial staff photographers, and the rest of the usual crew in NJ and PA who showed up for many of our hikes.
So How Much Did We Raise?
Beyond spreading the word to reduce the stigma, we are also committed to alleviating suffering from mental illness by funding scientific research to better understand, prevent, and treat mental illness. And we give a portion back to help to preserve the wilderness trails on which we hike. 100% of the donations we receive from our hikes go to these causes.
This year, we raised a total of $30,911, a major increase from last year’s $8,129 and more than double our $15,000 goal for the year!
While we are not going to be satisfied until the stigma has been conquered and everyone, including those who suffer with mental illness, can find the simple joy in living that we experience by hiking, we are thrilled and humbled at the progress this year, thanks to a huge show of support by so many.
And now, to where the money went…
In December, we distributed 100% of the $29,669.20 in hike donations we received up to that point. (The donations received December 1 or later will be given out with next year’s disbursement.)
- Brain & Behavior Research Foundation received 80% of the funds. President Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., was presented with a check for $23,576.96.
- The New York New Jersey Trail Conference received 20% of the funds raised; a total of $5,894.24 was presented to Executive Director Edward Goodell. Of that amount, $1,000 was directed to their capital project to convert the Darlington Schoolhouse into an education center and program headquarters, helping them to receive a $500,000 challenge grant.
- Our Veterans Day hike, which is dedicated to providing self-help materials for patients on the behavioral ward of a US Veterans hospital serving active duty service men and women, raised almost $200 that was used to purchase DVD’s about coping with depression and coping with anger, as requested by Rosa, the VA nurse there. In addition, hikers also made direct donations of books through an Amazon wish list she posted.
Our operating expenses – credit card processing fees, website hosting, software licensing, shirts and other logo-ed items, printing and administrative expenses – came to just under $6,000 in 2013. Approximately $5,300 of these costs were paid by the founders and leaders of HIKE for Mental Health. I wish we didn’t have to publicize that fact, and we don’t do so to toot our own horns. But it is important to help everyone understand how 100% of the donations raised from hikes can go to our mission.
The reason is that HIKE for Mental Health is an all-volunteer organization. Its leaders all have day jobs (thankfully), and we pay from our pockets for most of the operating costs. We think it is important, if we are going to ask for donations from others, that we do not exempt ourselves from that request.
The remainder of the operating support came from shirt donations, some corporate donations, and donations made expressly to offset our operating costs such as the CLYNK program that Sue Twombley organized for us in Maine. For all of these, we are very grateful.
On that note, we want to thank the businesses who contributed to our effort this year, including:
- Paramount Mattress and Kevin York who generously donated a queen mattress to our top-fundraising hiker this year
- Trekker’s Trail Magic – thank you, Mike for Coyote Camp, for the free ready-to-eat meals for use on our overnight hikes and the weeks’ supply for our second highest fundraiser
- 4imprint, for providing $500 worth of sharp-looking HIKE for Mental Health carabiners
- Shaw’s Book Shop, who helped us with pricing on books
- Our Town, the community newspaper in Maywood, NJ, who provided generous advertising support to our Veterans’ Day walk
- GoodSearch, GoodShop, and GoodDining, affiliate programs that make donations to us when people use their search engine, shop online, or dine at member restaurants
Note: For more details, see Our Financials.
A New Year Begins
Where do we go from here? Upward, of course! More hikes, in more states. More hikers, more sponsors. Hopefully, a few more corporate sponsors to help with operating costs, which will continue to grow as the organization does.
But some things won’t change. We will still be an all-volunteer group, still committed to reducing the stigma of mental illness that prevents those afflicted and their families from seeking the help they need or receiving the understanding from society that they crave… Still focused on sharing our love for hiking with others and helping preserve our wilderness trails…
In the weeks ahead, we will finalize and announce our 2014 goals and plans. If you want one small preview, take a look at our Third Annual Summit Mt. Washington hike. Last year, we had more than 30 hikers and raised almost $10,000. This year, we want 80 hikers to get us above $20,000. We have scheduled a 50-passenger tour bus to bring hikers from NJ, PA, NY, and CT to NH for the amazing hike. Check out the photos from last year’s hike and click here to get details and sign up for this year’s edition. You won’t regret it.