More than $6,000 raised for eating disorder awareness walk

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COLUMBIA — More than 150 people registered to participate in a walk at Stankowski Field Sunday morning to raise awareness for eating disorders.

The walk is hosted by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and is the first of its kind in Columbia.

“NEDA walks are performed all over the country, they’re just to bring awareness and funds to NEDA and to the general stigma of eating disorders,” said event organizer Toni Matson. “People don’t like to talk about it, and people feel really alone.”

So far, Columbia’s walk has raised more than $6,000 to support NEDA and the work it does.

According to NEDA, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, and they affect more than 30 million people.

Shanda Weathers has been dealing with her eating disorder for almost 30 years.

She said these kinds of events are essential to spreading the word.

“They’re vitally important to raise awareness, understanding of eating disorders because there’s very little understanding,” Weathers said.

Weathers moved to Columbia last year in hopes of better treatment for her anorexia and bulimia. Before, she lived in Arkansas where her insurance would not cover inpatient treatment for her.

“It’s still very hard to get the help that you need. I was told by my insurance company I was not sick enough, I was not thin enough. My therapist was basically begging for them to help me get inpatient and they refused,” she said.

Weathers explained it is hard to get help for many people who suffer from an eating disorder.

“The standards by insurance companies, they’re just ridiculous because it’s not about what you weigh, it’s not about what you look like,” she said. “It is about this severe mental illness that you live with every day, every minute, every time you sit down to a meal. It’s devastating.”

Weathers planned to be at the NEDA walk Sunday. She said she wants to honor those who couldn’t get the support they needed.

“That’s why I’m walking; in honor of the people that have passed, waiting on help that never came,” Weathers said.

Matson is also a survivor of an eating disorder, and she said NEDA helped her get healthy.

“NEDA really helped me in my walk to recovery, and so I just wanted to be able to give back and help people understand and realize that there’s hope,” Matson said.

She said NEDA walks help those suffering find a community of support.

“These walks are a really good way to just let people know that they have a community and a family and friends that love them and want to help them,” said Matson.

Matson said she hopes these walks continue annually in Columbia, and that there will be an MU organization that will try to make it an annual event.

Online registration is now closed, but anyone can register at the event.

Check in will begin at 9:30 a.m., and participants can attend an opening ceremony with guest speakers starting at 10 a.m.

Weathers said she is looking forward to meeting new people and helping educate others.

“I’m really excited because, they’re my people and I’m going to be able to bond with them and meet people that hopefully will just understand,” Weathers said. “And then together we can raise awareness.”

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