THE public is being invited to take part in a five-kilometre walk around Kerang this Saturday to raise money and awareness of youth mental health.
The walk is being organised by local teenager Jorja McDonald and her 15-member Mallee Crew, which is taking part in the March with Me event on March 4 and 5, with the aim of raising $5000.
Completing the 116-kilometre march for the third time, Miss McDonald is shrugging off a tired body and the burdens of year 12 to support a cause dear to her heart.
The monumental undertaking will see a group of 290 people walk from Portsea to Port Melbourne in two days, aiming to raise $300,000 and much-needed awareness of youth mental health.
The walk is a fundraiser of the Love Me Love You Foundation, founded by former Kerang premiership player, Lance Picioane, who fought anxiety and depression during his 77-game AFL career.
Fellow Kerang footballer, Luke Livingston is also a huge supporter of the foundation and currently sits on the board.
The foundation delivers community and school programs that seek to reduce substance abuse issues and break down the stigma associated with youth mental health.
Miss McDonald said she hoped to raise $5000 this year and bring her three-year total to $15,000.
"I love the cause and I love that I can raise awareness and money for mental health by walking, which is in itself good for mental health," she said.
"I'm happy to have more people up here involved this year, because it all helps to spread the word about mental health.
"The past few years I've had so many people approach me and ask about mental health and where to get help."
Miss McDonald said there had been huge financial support from the local community, via a raffle and donation tins at local businesses, which are in place again this year.
"Thanks so much to the community and businesses for supporting me," she said.
Mr Picioane said March with Me carried the mantra that "no-one travels their journey alone, so that people understand that no matter the challenge in life, we are surrounded by people that want to support us".
"Breaking down the stigma associated with mental illness goes a long way to helping our youth combat these challenges through acceptance and acknowledgement of their challenges," he said.
"Love Me Love You is building an army of mental health advocates in the community so we implore everyone to start having the conversation and giving a voice to those that have suffered in silence too long."
The Mallee Crew - which includes participants from the Swan Hill, Kerang and Echuca districts - will be gathered in front of Autopro Kerang from 8am on Saturday. The walk will traverse the streets of Kerang before returning to Autopro for a barbecue at 10.30am.
Donations of $5 for a single walker, $15 for families and $2 for sausages are requested. Donations can also be made online at marchwithme2017.everydayhero.com/au/mallee-march-with-me-2017-crew.
For more information, contact Miss McDonald on 0419 612 250 or via the Mallee Crew March with Me 2017 Facebook page.