Racing for mental awareness

Published 10:32 pm Thursday, September 29, 2016

A foundation’s awareness walk will return for its second year next weekend.

The Chas Foundation, dedicated to raising awareness for mental health, will host its 8K race and 5K walk and run on Oct. 9 in North Suffolk’s Harbour View area.

The event, spearheaded by Dr. Mark Lawson, one of the foundation’s board members and a local physician and avid runner, was started in response to the state’s poor mental health care system.

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All proceeds from the event will go toward supporting the foundation and improving mental health care in the Hampton Roads region.

In just a year, the foundation has received an outpouring of support from the community. To date, they have raised more than $28,000 in comparison to $7,500 last year, according to Lawson.

“We have received tremendous support from a number of people,” Lawson said.

The foundation was started by Tucker Corprew, who lost her son, Charles “Chas” Kirkwood, to suicide after he struggled for years with bipolar disorder and psychosis.

Lawson and Beau Kirkwood, Chas’ younger brother and the foundation’s executive director, both experienced crushing blows from mental illness.

Lawson’s daughter, Ashley, also passed away to suicide. He does not feel the state did enough to facilitate the process needed for her care.

“Families are left to manage the problems out on their own,” Lawson said.

Particularly, for Kirkwood, it took more than 10 years for his brother to be diagnosed with mental illness.

After being in and out of hospitals due to his insurance coverage running out, his symptoms grew worse. At age 34, Chas took his life.

The losses have driven the two to continue advocating for support of those with mental illness.

“This breathed some sort of fire inside us,” Kirkwood said.

One out of every five families has to cope with mental illness, and depression is projected to be the No. 3 diagnosis nationwide by 2030, according to Lawson.

Last year, the race attracted more than 100 participants. The organizers hope it will attract more than double that number this year.

“Recognizing and addressing the stigma is extremely important, and it’s showing,” Kirkwood said.

Registration can be done through or through same-day registration starting at 7:15 a.m. at TowneBank University, 6009 Harbour View Blvd. Both events will start at 8:30 a.m. in the bank’s parking lot and run through the Harbour View neighborhoods and along the James River.

In the past, the foundation has hosted golf tournaments and charity auction fundraisers in Norfolk and Virginia Beach.