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Running, Mental Wellness, TEAM UHHCF & Hope

When I was asked to be a guest speaker during the first ever UnitedHealthcare Children's Foundation Run Webinar this year because of the release of my memoir, Simply Because We Are Human, it was a no brainer. In fact, I couldn't believe how fortunate I was to be able to discuss the passion I have for writing, running, helping others through fund raising, my career at Optum, and be a mental health advocate at the same time. It is much easier to present to large groups on topics that you are passionate about and I was passionate about all of these topics.

For those of you that haven't read my memoir yet, it discusses my life dealing with clinical depression from age eight to present time, and how running has influenced my mental well-being over the years. Running has been a major outlet for me. I was a track star in high school and later found distance running as an adult. I competed in three marathons, two Ragnar Relays, and many other longer distance events. The act of running has helped me deal with my mental illness to the point where I would say that running saved my life.

Team UHCCF is a partnership that the Children's Foundation and my employer UnitedHealth Group has set up to fund raise money for medical grants. I have run Grandma's Half Marathon and numerous Twin Cities 10 mile events to fund raise money for the Children's Foundation. I very much value running for a purpose and incredible cause. This year I will be running my fourth marathon overall and first marathon for Team UHCCF, Grandma's Marathon in Duluth this June. I started training in March and I'm ready to go.

COVID-19 this past year brought on many hardships for people. Everyone can relate to having mental struggles in some form. It doesn't have to be clinical. It can be situational or a combination of things. The point I'm trying to make is we can all relate to hardship as human beings and should support each other. Mental illness is stigmatized and because of this it is keeping people from getting the help they need. It should be treated just like any other illness. Nobody is alone and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Mental illness can be treated and you will get better.

This past June, during COVID-19, my stepbrother passed away tragically due to his addition to alcohol. He was mentally ill and could not break out of his addition. I knew I wanted to sign up for a running event because running helps me stay balanced. I thought I'd run a half marathon at the most, but after my stepbrother died I knew I wanted to sign up for something longer. I need to stay ahead of my mental illness and losing a close relative could easily trigger an episode. I wanted to be deliberate on helping myself stay ahead of my depression. Running has always helped me, so when I received the email asking if I wanted to sign up for Team UHCCF to run Grandma's Marathon, it was perfect. I'd be running around the anniversary of my stepbrother Johnny's death and raising money for a child that needs a medical grant. Team UHHCF has really been influential in my life and inspired me to work through some difficult things this past year.

Here is to Running, Mental Wellness, TEAM UHHCF & Hope. Thank you Team UHCCF


To watch Webinar presentation click on link below

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