A local high school is holding a race to raise money for mental health organizations as part of a larger kindness initiative-and creating friendly competition with other schools.

Etowah High School is holding the Etowah Cares 5K March 15 at Etowah River Park in Canton. The race is part of the school's "dude. be nice." weeklong kindness campaign, and the community is invited to participate and support area mental health and medical nonprofit organizations. The race is sponsored by the school's student government association, and Etowah is challenging other schools to get involved by offering an award to the school that brings in the most participants.

"Our mission is to change the stereotypes surrounding mental illness, build community, and help those living with depression, anxiety, and other disorders by supporting the organizations that help them the most," said assistant principal Jennifer Jones, the administrator coordinating the event. "Mental health awareness is crucial at a juncture when students are struggling to cope and find the help they need to process the world around them. We want to help facilitate the students’ ability to find appropriate help when needed by providing select organizations with some funds that will directly impact our community’s access to care."

A portion of the proceeds will benefit Etowah Cares through the Etowah Foundation. Etowah Cares provides financial support to Etowah students and their families in a medical crisis. The event is also supporting Cherokee Center for Change, a counseling center in the Towne Lake community that will create additional services for students and families.

Jones said that the goal for this event is to have over 300 participants. The race, which is facilitated by Active.com, will be professionally timed by Olympia Resources.

"We would love to see the whole Cherokee County community at Etowah River Park to show their support for our mission," she said.

Etowah's dude. be nice week started Monday. Each day features a different act of kindness, and on Friday there will be an assembly with a guest speaker and people at the school will be recognized for embodying kindness. The dude. be nice project is based in California.

The cost to enter the Etowah Cares 5K race is $35. To register and for more information, visit www.active.com.

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Shannon is a reporter covering education, city governments, crime, features, religion and other local news. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and currently lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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