Taking care of your mental health is sweet! Westfield holds second annual walk for CAKE


Photo by Nathan Welsh

Westfield Police Department shows support for the CAKE initiative with stickers

On April 30, Westfield celebrated the end of Mental Health Awareness Month with the second annual Walk for CAKE and Mental Health Fair. This event serves to show support to those in the community dealing with mental health issues by minimizing the stigma surrounding mental illness and spreading awareness of resources.

Despite the rain, the day began with the Walk for CAKE from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in Mindowaskin Park. CAKE stands for Compassion, Acceptance, Kindness and Empathy, an initiative promoted by the Westfield Mental Health Council.

Around the park, walkers had the chance to engage with various stations with calming activities and information on how to cope with stress. Some stands included yoga, art therapy and therapy dogs while others educated participants on relaxation techniques.

Some of these booths were run by student volunteers from WHS like senior Lauren McDonough, who volunteered at the art therapy station. “I think that no matter what your mental state is, everyone deserves to be able to relax and channel their inner emotions and thoughts through art,” she said. “It was super fun to be able to see and guide people in making a community mandala.”

After completing the walk, from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., participants were treated to an array of desserts across the street at the Westfield Area YMCA located at 422 East Broad Street. In addition to some sweets, various experts from mental health provider resources were available to answer questions and provide information about their services.

Westfield YMCA Here 2 Help representative Bonnie Cohen said, “Mental health awareness and destigmatization are a key part of the YMCA’s social responsibility platform, and to fulfill their role to the community the [YMCA] is a convener of resources. By making an event like this fun, we want people to feel comfortable to come, grab what they need, learn a little bit and be able to impart that to other people in their lives.”

This event was valuable in spreading awareness that help is available. WHS senior Demi Heston, who participated in Sunday’s event, said, “I thought it was really impactful because I didn’t know something like this existed in Westfield. Going around and seeing all of the booths, I think just knowing that something is there to help students and that there are local people to support stress and mental health, especially during AP testing and all that stuff is really important.”

Annmarie Szuminski of High Focus Treatment Centers, an organization that specializes in substance abuse care, mental health and LGBTQ+ services, agreed that the Mental Health Fair is particularly applicable to students. She said, “I think events like this are helping start to destigmatize the way that we view mental health and substance abuse issues. Exposing the availability of this care to young people, not just teachers and parents, is important so they can have an idea of which direction to go or how to navigate situations in their lives.”

Even with poor weather conditions, the Walk for CAKE garnered a sizable turnout amongst students and community members as it looks to build roots in Westfield for years to come.

If you or someone you know is having a mental health emergency, help is available. Call 911 or 988, the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.