SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. – A Wisconsin physician brought his nationwide 5k walk/run tour to raise awareness of mental illness to Vermont on Wednesday, and more than 60 people joined him at Red Rocks Park in South Burlington.

Vermont was the 40th state in as many days on Adel Korkor’s Five Fifty Fifty Run/Walk for Mental Health,” and although the fast pace of his cross-country trip is tiring, he said the cause keeps him energized.

“If you have mental health issues, you’re facing with those challenges every single second of the day all your life,” Korkor said. “I always look at my experience and I think it’s nothing compared to what they’re suffering.”

The tour started April 27 in Honolulu, Hawaii. It will finish in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 15. The funds raised will be used to address shortages in affordable mental health care, emphasize the importance of wellness in mental health and focus on underserved groups, such as veterans, minorities and those suffering from addiction.

For the Vermonters participating in the race, personal loss was a driving factor in their decision to get involved.

“My cousin was diagnosed with bipolar schitzophrenia and he actually ended up passing away from this disease because he wasn’t able to get the proper help that he needed to,” said Jessica Marriott. “This is what really motivates me to do this.”

This is the second year Korkor has embarked on the cross-country tour. He said the stories of mental illness struggles he hears are often heartbreaking.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried or gotten emotional hearing many of the stories,” he said. “I truly believe by doing what I’m doing, I’m making a difference. I’m raising the awareness level.”

Overall participation in Korkor’s events have nearly doubled from last year, he said. Just 15 Vermonters took part in the 2018 run/walk tour.