Sept. 30 HIKE for Mental Health welcomes local participation

COME AND WALK — Hiking enthusiast Michael T. Wood, right, invites area residents to join him on a fundraiser 3-mile hike through Fernwood State Forest on Sept. 30 beginning at noon. The HIKE for Mental Health is to help eliminate the stigma that surrounds mental illness, according to the Wintersville man, who is shown with Justin Law, forest manager, Fernwood State Forest. -- Contributed

WINTERSVILLE — Taking a hike is second nature to Michael Wood.

He’s logged more than 2,000 miles on trails near and far, and he’ll add a small but significant number to that tally come Sept. 30.

But he hopes to have some company along for the journey.

The Wintersville man has organized what will be the second-annual HIKE for Mental Health, which will be held at Fernwood State Forest.

The fundraiser 3-mile walk begins at noon and welcomes anyone interested in enjoying the outdoors, nature, some camaraderie and a chance to support what is a cause important to Wood as it is intended to help eliminate the stigma that surrounds mental illness in Ohio, according to the Wintersville man.

It is hoped to not only raise awareness but also $1,000.

HIKE for Mental Health is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 2011 to reduce the suffering caused by mental illness that affects one in four families in America, according to its website. All contributions to the hike are tax-deductible, and 100 percent of the hike donations are directed toward supporting the mission of the organization.

Those wanting to participate can meet at the forest office at noon and are advised to dress “for the weather at hand.”

“It was a great time last year even though it rained,” Wood said of the initial year for the walk. “We raised over $900 last year.”

Known as “Medic Mike” on the trail, Wood has hiked portions of the Appalachian Trail in Vermont, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut and part of New Hampshire. At Fernwood, where he also hikes, Wood helps with trail maintenance as well.

Off the trail, Wood serves as the building manager at the Steubenville Masonic Temple and is the fire inspector for Cross Creek Township.

Holding the hike for a second go-round is important to Wood, who noted, “I, too, suffer from depression and bipolar and use hiking and backpacking for my therapy, so why not support a great cause to raise money to give back to the trails also?”

“Eighty cents of every dollar funds mental health programs, including break-through scientific research into PTSD, schizophrenia, bipolar spectrum disorders, depression and other major mental illnesses,” according to information provided. “The remaining 20 cents maintains wilderness trails across the United States. By supporting nonprofit, volunteer groups that care for our trails, we help preserve wilderness,” the information notes.

Wood has walked more than 2,000 miles since 2007. He describes the trails he’s been on as “hard but beautiful, and breath-taking.” Hiking helps clear the mind, he said, and the beauty of the trail and outdoors refreshes the body and spirit.

To donate, visit hikeformentalhealth.org and click on join hike, find Fernwood State Forest and fill out the form.

Inquiries can be directed to Wood by e-mail at medic8715@yahoo.com or by phone at (740) 424-7723.


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