Midtown Raleigh News

Annual Walk for Hope puts spotlight on mental health

In 1988, a small group of people walked 12 miles from the Angus Barn to the 42nd Street Oyster Bar, the beginning of an annual tradition that has since raised millions of dollars for mental health research and treatment.

This year, on the 25th anniversary of the Walk for Hope, organizers expect nearly 4,000 participants, including 30 people who have never missed a year.

Wyndy Hoover is one of them.

She worked at the Angus Barn in 1988 when employees decided they wanted to do something to honor the memory of the restaurant’s late co-founder, Thad Eure Jr.

Eure and his wife, Alice, had established the Foundation for Hope, an organization dedicated to promoting research and treatment for mental illness a few years before. They were inspired to start the foundation after searching for the best care for their son, who was struggling with mental illness.

The employees settled on the idea of the walk, hoping it would be a gesture big enough to match Eure’s history of generosity. And once they had finished the first walk, they knew they wanted to keep it going.

“You didn’t want to do anything but that,” said Hoover, who still works at the restaurant. “It was just such a privilege.”

Since the first walk, the foundation has awarded $3.7 million in grants for mental health research and treatment to Triangle researchers. That seed money has helped those researchers bring in more than $100 million in additional funding.

“I just absolutely know that they would be so proud,” said Shelley Eure Belk, a daughter of Thad and Alice and executive director of the foundation.

Belk said the day is important not just because it raises money for research but because it helps break down some of the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“It’s getting better, but it’s one of those things that people just don’t talk about in conversation,” she said.

The Walk for Hope has grown to include both walking and running options. On Oct. 13, walkers can participate in a 1-mile hike, a 5-kilometer walk or a 10-kilometer walk. Runners can choose from a 5K and a 10K.

A celebration with music, food and children’s activities follows the races.