Hundreds party with a purpose to shine a light on mental illness

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — 8News is celebrating Heart Month with stories of people where you live raising awareness and making a difference.

A Henrico couple is on a mission since their daughter died of sudden cardiac arrest nearly three years ago.

Inside Richmond’s Hippodrome Theatre Saturday night, hundreds of people partied with a purpose to shine a light on mental illness and take it out of the dark.

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“We’ve all known someone that struggled with it and as a cause, there’s no greater cause,” said supporter Emily Steffler.

It’s the yearly fundraiser for the Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation.

Cameron was 16-years-old when she suffered sudden cardiac arrest at the finish line of the Shamrock half marathon.

Nearly three years later, her inspiration and vision are very much alive.

“All she ever wanted was to love and be loved and that is a gift,” Grace Gallagher, Cameron’s mom said. “That is the gift of Cameron and it’s a gift we need to give everyone else.”

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Her parents are driven to raise awareness about mental health issues in young people because that was Cameron’s cause.

They have now expanded their Speak Up 5k’s into three states and implemented life-changing programs into area schools.

“Meeting them where they are with social media, meeting them where they are with the stresses in their life, and then building on that. So it’s very conversational and it’s really personal,” Grace said.

“There really aren’t really any entities out there on a national or really regional level that focus specifically on teenage mental health. And that’s our core focus and that’s really what we do every day,” David Gallagher, Cameron’s father said.

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The Gallaghers have lofty goals for moving forward with their mission, but acknowledge that every time they reach a teen, they accomplish everything.

“Grace and I come home all the time and say we met a Cameron today. We’re speaking up for the Cameron’s,” David said. “So, Cameron is our personal inspiration but the truth is, Cameron is alive and well in those kids.”

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