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Hundreds attend Merrill’s ‘Raise Your Voice for Mental Health Walk’

Published: May. 2, 2021 at 6:36 PM CDT
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MERRILL, Wis. (WSAW) - A walk for mental health awareness, organized by high school students in Merrill, drew hundreds and raised thousands of dollars for mental health support.

When Merrill High School’s “Raise Your Voice Club” started planning the “Raise Your Voice for Mental Health Walk,” they were only expecting around 50 people. As preregistration numbers continued to come in, they came to a realization.

“Holy buckets, this is going to be a lot of people,” the president of the club Zach Kliegel said.

A sea of green, the color of the t-shirts, could be seen across downtown Merrill. The expected 50 people ended up being close to 250.

“Holy cow, the registrations went smooth that we had this many people not day of,” the other president of the club Drew Polak said.

Kliegel said the cause is very important to him. The walk was in memory of Tyler Holbach, a Wausau student who died in 2017.

“With everything that’s going on, it helps to know that people are thinking about this topic and it isn’t just that topic that’s put away in the dark anymore,” Kliegel said.

Along the walk were rocks painted with messages of positivity like “it’s OK to be gray.” Many rocks were lined up towards the end, and it was painted by the community.

“The community is way involved. Way more than we expected. A lot of support and we are very grateful for that,” Polak said.

Some even drove from far away like Stevens Point, because they felt this was a cause too important to ignore.

“It’s something that I think a lot of people struggle with. And if we can bring a lot of awareness to it and get more help for people who need it,” Jill Damrau said.

Toni Moldenhauer, a worker at the high school, has seen the planning first-hand. The support she saw from the area wasn’t a surprise.

“Merrill is a good community. We support a lot of the things that need supporting and I’m just very proud. Very proud,” she said.

But it’s the fact that this was put on by students that they feel makes it even more personal.

“We’re driven. We see things, we bring them to light. We try to make a change in this world and we can get things done.”

The students are caring for their community and it isn’t just that all the adults are putting this on. The students are just there. I think it’s very important that the students are in charge of this,” Kliegel said.

The money raised will go towards Tyler’s Playground, a play area dedicated to Tyler Holbach, and the National Alliance for Mental Illness.

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