Giving Back

Racing Toward Mental Health Awareness at Madison YMCA 5k

Sebastian Nicewicz, 24, of Madison wins the men's first place overall by a "foot." Credits: Lindsay Ireland
Jenna Robeson of Randolph crosses the finish line with a smile on her face, clinching first place overall for the ladies. Credits: Lindsay Ireland
Hundred of racers crowd around the starting line, waiting for the whistle to blow. Credits: Lindsay Ireland
The Mind Matters 5k kicks off at Giralda Farms. Credits: Lindsay Ireland
Aime Herman and other YMCA staff members cheer on participants of the one-mile fun run/walk that immediately followed the 5k. Credits: Lindsay Ireland
The fun run/walk is about to begin. Credits: Lindsay Ireland
Madison Councilwoman Maureen Byrne thanks runners for their participation, and Madison Mayor Bob Conley starts the race. Credits: Lindsay Ireland

MADISON, NJ—Hundreds of runners Wednesday withstood the evening’s scorching heat for The Mind Matters 5k at Giralda Farms, sponsored by the Madison Area YMCA.

As runners held their “ready” positions, Chairman of the Madison YMCA’s Board of Directors Michael Caulfield, clad in what he called his “subtle, sophisticated, stylish” Batman t-shirt, offered some inspirational words.

“We at the Y think that everyone who participates—whether you be a sponsor, a team runner, an individual a runner, a walker, a family, staff worker—every one of you we think of as super stars,” he said.

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The Mind Matters 5k raises money for the Madison YMCA’s mental health programs, specifically the Community Mental Health Initiative—a fairly new effort—and Project Community Pride, according to Amie Herman, the Madison YMCA’s Senior Director of Organization Advancement.

Each of these programs aims to increase mental health awareness through education or counseling.

“The Y believes in the health of the whole person: making sure people are physically and mentally healthy, live long lives and are keep their families healthy,” Herman said.

Madison Councilwoman Maureen Byrne, who suffers from bipolar disorder herself, made an appearance at Wednesday’s event and expressed her gratitude to all the racers for their participation.

“I was diagnosed at 40, and that was too late,” she said. “What we’re doing with Project Community Pride is we’re identifying mental illness, which is completely curable if it’s caught early and treated. This run supports that effort, so thank you for your work.”

Pfizer began hosting the Mind Matters 5k more than 20 years ago, and said they handed the reigns over to the Madison YMCA about three years ago because of its strong connection with the community, according to Herman.

The 5k also helps the Madison YMCA fulfill its mission to pursue total health, Caulfield said.

“We care about people mentally, physically and emotionally,” Herman said. “A 5k is great from a fitness perspective. By racing today, families are having fun, staying fit and they are also helping highlight the importance of mental health and wellness a part of whole health in our community.”

Awards were given to the first overall male and female finishers, and the first finishers (male and female) 14 and under, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70-79 and 80 and over.

Madison’s own Sebastian Nicewicz, 24, took first place overall in the men’s category, and Jenna Robeson of Randolph finished first for the women.

A one-mile fun run/walk followed Wednesday’s 5k, and seemed to be the top choice for families with small children who participated.

All proceeds were donated to the Madison YMCA by corporate sponsors to pay for the race, according to Herman. Some of this money, as well as racer registration fees, will be used to fund its mental health programs. Pfizer was the event’s lead sponsor, and Realogy was the race’s silver level sponsor.

Other sponsors included’s Madison, Chatham and Florham Park branches; Florham Park PBA, Good Grief, Prudential Global Investment Management, HLW International, Professional Physical Therapy and Training, LLC, Gary’s Wine and Marketplace, Merck Animal Health, Dartcour Food Services, Starting Line Sports, Municipal Alliance Committee of the Chathams, Madison Alliance Addressing Substance Abuse and Hughes Environmental. Culligan was the race’s water sponsor.

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