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Hector's Walk to Albany For Mental Health Awareness

Yonkers Rising - 8/12/2017

Lifelong Yonkers resident and community activist Hector Santiago is best known for his "Stop and Shake" initiative, which brings the public closer to the Yonkers Police Department through interaction and a simple hand shake.

But this week, Santiago is on another mission: He is walking from Yonkers to Albany to promote awareness and resources for mental health. Santiago, 29, battled depression at an early age and wants the public to know that he overcame it and others can, too.

"It's been great to open the conversation about depression," said Santiago. "Depression should not be taboo and something we don't talk about. A lot of people are going through it - from veterans dealing with PTSD, to mothers, to everyday people - and they are sharing their stories with me and supporting me on this walk."

Depression and mental illness affect one in five Americans, and Santiago said he hopes his walk will make sure those suffering from depression and other mental illnesses get help, and to advocate for additional funding.

"The response has been overwhelming from Yonkers, which is beautiful, but from every one of the 17 towns that I have walked through," said Santiago. "They are praying to different gods for me, and it shows that we are all connected in some way."

Hector started his journey at the Yonkers Veterans Memorial on South Broadway, receiving support and encouragement from Councilmembers Christopher Johnson and Michael Sabatino, and from the Yonkers Family YWCA and the Nepperhan Community Center.

Santiago is walking 140 miles up Route 9 to Albany. Heavy rain one day has left him with a cold to deal with as he finishes the final leg of his journey, from Kington to Albany, where he hopes to meet with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to discuss more funding and awareness of mental health.

"This is the most physically intense thing that I've ever done," he said. "I don't go to the gym or work out, so it's been a matter of mind over body walking 30 miles a day. But this journey has been a success, even if I don't get to meet with Gov. Cuomo. I'm so happy for the people I have met and the discussions we have had. Together, as a community, I think we have already made a difference."

Follow Santiago on his journey at


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