The National Eating Disorders Association Walk of Charlottesville continues to surpass prior years with raising about $10,000 this year, according to coordinator Clare Brady. The amount raised in 2013 was about $9,000 and about $7,000 in 2012.

Third year student, Katelyn Hebel, was one of about 100 who participated in last Saturday’s walk at Nameless Field, and she is hopeful the organization will continue to increase fundraising next year, as she thinks that the amount raised this year “looks like a goal to beat in the future.”

Hebel got involved with the walk through her position as a Body Positive/Eating Disorders Initiative intern at the Women’s Center. This was Hebel’s first year with participating in the walk as it is her first year as an intern at the Women’s Center.

On the other hand, Brady had already been volunteering with NEDA as a Navigator for about a year before she got involved with the walk. According to the National Eating Disorders Association website, Navigators are “volunteers that have experience navigating the complex and overwhelming systems and emotions involved with the diagnosis and process of seeking help for an eating disorder.”

When Brady moved to U.Va. for her post-baccalaureate premedical program in June 2013, she contacted the Women’s Center and found out it needed a walk coordinator. Beginning five years ago, the walk is cosponsored with the UVA Coalition on Eating Disorders and Exercise Concerns.

“The Women’s Center and Coalition were a great help in providing networking and promotional resources,” Brady said. “They were completely supportive and were always there when I had questions.”

Brady recognized that the main event was run by a committee outside of these two organizations, and many local helpers had direct ties to the cause. The cause is deeply personal to Brady.

“This cause is important to me because I recovered from Anorexia about six years ago: Ever since, I have wanted to use my experience to help others and remove the stigma surrounding eating disorders,” Brady said. “My mother is also a pediatrician and eating disorder specialist, and I have become aware of many of the challenges both medically, as well as with insurance companies, and hope to do my best to fix these through my advocacy and volunteering!

Hebel noted that there “[…] seemed to be people from all backgrounds — community members, Peer Health Educators, Coalition members and people who just wanted to support the cause.” Among those present at the walk, she thought that activist Matt Wetsel gave an especially memorable speech.

“I love to see him as an advocate for eating disorders, since I think men’s eating disorders are stigmatized even more than women’s eating disorders are.”

Based on her experience with the walk, Hebel said she will be even more involved next year. She enjoyed the warm weather and an environment that was “so relaxed and open and welcoming.”

“[…]It was all different members of the community coming together for this one cause, listening to a little music to get energized for the walk and sampling local bread from Great Harvest Bread Company, which was delicious! […] Hebel said. “I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised to see all the people who came out to support the event, since I didn’t even know about it a year ago!”

By Agnes Filipowski