Ballarat local Michelle Smith has joined 300 participants in the annual March With Me walk this weekend to raise awareness for youth mental health.
The walk will see participants notch up 116 kilometres from Portsea to Port Melbourne for mental wellbeing organisation Love Me Love You.
March With Me raised over $200,000 last year, which helped deliver nearly 11,000 educational experiences to young Australians.
Ms Smith said she was inspired to join the walk this year after being introduced to the foundation by long-term friend and veteran walker Audrey Baker, as well as through her own personal experience with mental illness.
“After going through a marriage break up and being a single mum, depression has certainly been with me more than once,” she said.
“My partner and I have a blended family and two of our children have been touched by mental health issues, and one of my closest friends is bipolar and suffers post traumatic stress syndrome.”
Ms Smith said the foundation’s motto ‘no one person should travel their journey alone’ was something she and her partner practised with their own children.
“We regularly check in to make sure they’re in a good place but we’re also conscious of not overcrowding them and allowing them to work through whatever it is they’re going through,” she said.
“The most important thing is letting them know that we’re here if they need us.”
In the lead up to the event, Ms Smith was walking 20-30 kilometres each day and averaging over 100 kilometres each week around Ballarat.
“People think I’m silly and crazy but you have to be to do this walk, you have to have a bit of crazy,” she said.
“I’m also looking forward to the friendships and comradery that will grow along the way, as we all walk together.”
Joining forces with three other Ballarat locals Rachel, Paul and Andrea Constable, the group had hoped to raise $2000 for Love Me Love You, but they quickly surpassed their goal and have already reached $10,000.
Love Me Love You hopes to raise $300,000 for March With Me 2017, which will help the foundation facilitate mental health education presentations and wellbeing workshops to schools and sporting clubs around Australia.
The walk concludes on Sunday, March 5.
If you would like to donate visit marchwithme2017.everydayhero.com/au/team-stumblingin.