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by Kaitlin Gentry

In 2012, Denis Asselin walked over 500 miles — or roughly one million steps — from his home in Cheyney, PA, to Boston, MA, in memory of his son Nathaniel, who took his own life after a long struggle with severe body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) and OCD. To carry on this tradition, the 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk was created the following year. 

Here, Nathaniel’s cousin Kaitlin writes about his legacy and invites you to join us for the 2021 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk to raise awareness and support everyone affected by OCD and related disorders like BDD.

When I think of a wedding, I immediately think of being surrounded by your very closest family and friends. It is likely the one time in your life that you will have your very favorite people from all walks of your life in the same place at the same time. 

For my cousin Carrie, a huge piece of her heart was missing from her wedding a few weeks ago — her brother Nathaniel. As I thought of how much I was going to miss Nathaniel at this large family gathering, I couldn’t help but wonder how my Aunt Judy, Uncle Denis, and Carrie would cope with this huge void, on what was supposed to be one of the best days of their lives! 

Instead of letting myself be sad for too long, I decided to channel this emotion into something positive. How can I make this even an ounce easier for them? How could I help honor my cousin Nathaniel — without overshadowing the bride and groom? It also happened to be the 10-year anniversary of his passing, after his 13-year struggle with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), so I felt like a celebration was necessary for that reason alone. 

Thus, the Walking With Nathaniel (WWN) last-minute shirt fundraiser was created, with the help of my dad (Carrie & Nathaniel’s Uncle Bill). Members from both sides of the family purchased shirts to wear at our family brunch the day after the wedding, to raise money and awareness for BDD and the International OCD Foundation. In about a week, we sold nearly 40 WWN shirts.

I especially loved seeing members of Daniel’s (the groom) side of the family wearing the shirts that Sunday, none of whom had never even met Nathaniel. We raised a couple hundred dollars, not a huge amount, but I still think Nathaniel was smiling down on us on that beautiful morning. We will always miss him, but it felt so wonderful to be together as one big “new” family — with our sweet cousin/brother/son/friend/nephew/grandson at the forefront of our minds. A truly special way to wrap up a magical weekend!

We loved raising money and awareness in Nathaniel’s memory, but we also know the importance of continuing to help those who are currently struggling with BDD and OCD. So find the nearest 1 Million Steps for OCD walk and register today! You can view the list here: International OCD Foundation | Find an OCD Walk (iocdf.org) 

We can’t wait to walk with you, celebrate with you, honor those who have lost their battle with OCD, and continue raising money for this amazing cause!


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