« Blog
Jeff Smith and other IOCDF staff members at the walk starting line.

by Denis Asselin

Wow… I find myself saying that word a lot these days.  What we at the IOCDF thought would be a modest community walk that would gradually grow over time has been just the opposite: The response from the OCD and related disorder community to the 1 Million+ Steps 4 OCD Awareness Walk has been overwhelming!

To date, the Walk has raised $65,000 in online and onsite donations, and this number continues to grow!  There were 200 walkers present at our walk at Jamaica Pond in Boston on Saturday, with over 100 “virtual walkers” walking in their own communities all over the country. And over 1000 people donated to walkers participating in the event.

Thursday night it appeared as if tropical storm Andrea — the first storm of the season barreling her way up the East Coast — would literally “dampen” the first ever 1 Million+ Steps 4 OCD Awareness Walk with torrential rain and wind. But the storm did not dampen the spirits of Walk Volunteers!

Walkers gather before the start.

Saturday began in drizzling rain and an occasional downpour, as the IOCDF staff and volunteers arrived at Jamaica Pond in Boston at 7 a.m. to begin set-up for the day’s festivities.   But, by 9:00 a.m., the clouds began to lift and the sun began to shine — and by 9:30, more than 200 people had arrived to Walk despite the forecast!

IOCDF Board President, Denise Egan Stack welcomed the crowd, followed by inspirational words from Sabine Wilhelm, PhD, Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital OCD and Related Disorders Clinic Kathy Phillips, MD, Director of the BDD Program at Rhode Island Hospital; and Walk Grand Marshal and inspiration Denis Asselin.

Denis and family cross the starting line.

Denis and his family led a sea of walkers in blue Walk T-shirts through the start line and around the 3-mile walk route.  Volunteers cheered them on as they reached the halfway point.

At the conclusion of the Walk, the IOCDF acknowledged those whose efforts were extraordinary:

  • Top Walk Team – Walking with Nathaniel
    Walking with Nathaniel was our top fundraising team, raising $17,688 for the IOCDF.
  • Top Individual Fundraiser – Joy Kant
    Our top individual fundraiser was Joy Kant, IOCDF Emeritus Board Member, and past Board President, who raised $4,625.
  • Largest Walk Team – OCD Massachusetts
    The team with the best attendance at the walk in Boston on Saturday was OCD Massachusetts, our local affiliate.
  • Top Virtual Fundraiser – Leslie Arturo
    And our top “virtual” fundraiser — a fundraiser from outside of the Boston area who walked and raised money in his or her own community — was Leslie Arturo. Leslie often volunteers at our Annual OCD Conference, and we were so excited to see that she was our top virtual fundraiser, raising $1,925.

There are countless stories from the Saturday that have inspired me.  Nathaniel’s story touches me deeply.  I am so very proud of the Asselin family and am truly moved by their example of courage and commitment.

As I was helping volunteers clean up for the day, a woman who wanted to know if I worked for the Foundation approached me.  She did not want to share her name, nor did she want to Walk, fundraise, or wear a T-shirt.   She simply wanted to thank me for giving her the opportunity to  “be there”… to be around others who may be sharing her life-experience.

Three generations walking together at the 1st annual 1 Million+ Steps 4 OCD Awareness Walk.
Three generations walking together at the 1st annual 1 Million+ Steps 4 OCD Awareness Walk.

Our staff heard countless other stories from individuals and families who were just happy to be a part of a group that could relate to their experiences of living with OCD. So many other diseases and disorders have large, visible marches and walks and rallies, but it is rare when people with mental health issues have the same opportunities, due to so much stigma and misunderstanding. We are so honored and humbled to have been part of creating this event, and giving people the opportunity to come together, and find strength in each other.

My sincere hope is that I run into this anonymous woman at next years Walk… and that this time, perhaps we can walk together along the Pond.

We are so very grateful to all who made this event a success.  We are grateful to our Sponsors:  Brooks Sports, Massachusetts General Hospital’s OCD and Related Disorders Program, the BDD Program at Rhode Island Hospital, and Whole Foods Supermarket in Jamaica Plain. We are especially grateful to the OCD and related disorder community who enthusiastically embraced the idea of a Walk and made the inaugural event an overwhelming success.

So Save the Date! Yes, Save the Date for the 2nd Annual 1 Million+ Steps 4 OCD Awareness Walk in June 2014!


  • Margaret Sisson

    This is awesome!!!! What an incredible response!!! Congratulations!!!!

  • jennifer poole

    The walk was amazing and very inspiring! So glad it was a great success!!

  • Katherine Litow

    Would it be possible for virtual walkers to receive the T-shirts by the day of the walk next year? It was great to receive them afterwards, but it would help to increase public awareness about OCD if we could have them to wear when we walk. It also would help us to feel that we are more a part of the “team” that is walking in Boston. Thanks for anything you are able to do.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *