Gurnee family shines light on mental health with 5K to benefit NAMI

  • James, left, Joe, Matt and Dan Dadabo. The Dadabo family is holding The James Dadabo Memorial Run in Gurnee Sept. 18 to benefit NAMI in honor of James.

    James, left, Joe, Matt and Dan Dadabo. The Dadabo family is holding The James Dadabo Memorial Run in Gurnee Sept. 18 to benefit NAMI in honor of James. Courtesy of the Dadabo family

 
 
Updated 8/12/2021 7:12 AM

It's OK not to be OK.

Michael Phelps said this when commenting on Simone Biles pulling out of the all-around gymnastics competition at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

 

Suddenly, mental health was thrust into the spotlight on the biggest stage in the world.

It's OK not to be OK.

But it's not just world-class athletes who suffer from mental health problems.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness website, nami.org:

• 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year.

• 1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness.

• 1 in 6 U.S. youths ages 6 to 17 experience a mental health disorder.

• 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24.

• Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 34.

It's OK not to be OK.

James with his mother, Marguerite Dadabo. The family is holding a fundraiser to benefit NAMI in James' honor.
James with his mother, Marguerite Dadabo. The family is holding a fundraiser to benefit NAMI in James' honor. - Courtesy of the Dadabo Family
by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Dadabo family of Gurnee understands these numbers all too well. James Dadabo started showing signs of mental illness when he was in college. In March 2020, James, the youngest of four boys, died at the age of 26.

Now the family wants to make sure that the unspoken is shouted, the stigma is lifted and that other families understand that they are not alone and there is help.

The family is hosting The James Dadabo Memorial Run from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, on the Des Plaines River Trail on the east side of Gurnee, 4374 Old Grand Ave.; enter/exit near Viking Park. Registration ends Sept. 17.

"For us, a reason why we are hosting this race is personal. We were hoping to find a way to commemorate James' life in a way that emphasizes his best qualities and acknowledges his personal challenges," the family said in an email.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"On a broader perspective, it's to destigmatize a common but unacknowledged aspect of well-being and support others in getting treatment. It's to foster a positive experience in something that is so ubiquitous in society. And acknowledge that it's a struggle for both the person and the family and friends.

"Our experience helped us to understand that mental illness is not confined to the person who has the disease, but it extends to close friends and family members, and even the community.

Matt and James Dadabo at a 5K race in Columbus, Ohio. James, who struggled with mental health issues, used running as a coping mechanism.
Matt and James Dadabo at a 5K race in Columbus, Ohio. James, who struggled with mental health issues, used running as a coping mechanism. - Courtesy of the Dadabo Family

"In holding an event like this, we are hoping to emphasize this fact and support others that may be struggling both directly and indirectly."

It's OK not to be OK.

If you or someone you know is struggling, the NAMI HelpLine can be reached at (800) 950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Or visit nami.org to find out how to get help.

Below, the family shares memories of James and information about the upcoming event.

In honor of a younger brother

James was our younger brother. We all grew up in Gurnee and attended Woodland and Warren for school.

James was always the boldest and most happy-go-lucky of all of us. He had a free spirit and effortlessly found ways to have fun. He took a genuine interest in everyone he met and had a way of making people let their guard down quickly.

James began showing signs of mental illness in his later years of college and struggled with this until his passing. James used exercise and running as an outlet whenever he became overwhelmed.

This run is a way for us to honor his memory and contribute to a cause that has become deeply meaningful to all of us.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a national advocacy organization that supports individuals affected by mental illness. We chose this organization because of their emphasis on supporting both individuals and family members of those experiencing mental illness.

From left are Erin Kilroy (Matt's girlfriend), Matt, Joe and James Dadabo at a 5K event. The family is hosting a run Sept. 18 in James' memory to benefit NAMI.
From left are Erin Kilroy (Matt's girlfriend), Matt, Joe and James Dadabo at a 5K event. The family is hosting a run Sept. 18 in James' memory to benefit NAMI. - Courtesy of Dadabo Family

James' condition impacted all of our lives in innumerable ways. It was important for us to support a charity that recognizes those unique challenges and promotes wellness for everyone encountering mental illness.

The James Dadabo Memorial Run will be held in Gurnee on Sept. 18. The race will be tentatively held on the east side of Gurnee, near Viking Park.

It'll cost $30 to run the race, and all participants will receive a tech shirt as well as post-race snacks and drinks. Runners and walkers of all paces are welcome. And if running isn't your thing, we are also accepting donations via our race website, runsignup.com/Race/IL/Gurnee/JamesDadaboMemorialRun.

All donations and proceeds from the event will go to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

You can find all information, including how to sign up or donate, and get the latest updates on our race website or our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/jamesdadabomemorialrun.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.