Apr 28, 2023

Walkers put focus on mental health, raise funds for Marion Middle's PE program

While working to defeat the stigma around mental health, about 100 people also helped make one of Marion Middle School students’ favorite PE activities safer.

Students and staff of Emory & Henry's Department of Clinical Mental Health Counseling hosted a Walk for Mental Health Awareness in Marion earlier this month. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, Dr. Stephanie H. Rutledge, a professor and the department's founding chair, said organizers hoped the walk would address stigma in the community.

Simultaneously, the organizers also sold T-shirts and led a fundraiser for Marion Middle School's physical education program. With dozens of participants, the walk began at the Smyth County Courthouse on Main Street.

Friday, Edwina Richardson, MMS principal, shared that gaga ball is one of the school's most popular PE activities. "Gaga ball," she explained, "is a fast-paced variant of dodgeball played in an octagonal ‘pit.’ Players use their hands to hit the ball at each other and are eliminated when the ball hits them on or below the knee. It is an inclusive game at which any student can excel."

A few years ago, several of the school's community partners donated the gaga pit, which is secured in the parking lot.

"As students go to scoop up the ball," Richardson said, "they sometimes suffer what we call ‘gaga knuckles’ and have to visit our school nurse, Mrs. Pugh, for first aid."

The funds raised by the Clinical Mental Health Counseling endeavor, she said, will be used to buy "padding for the pit to help us keep our students safe as they enjoy gaga."

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