Lifestyle, News

Peabody teens hope to walk their way to mental health awareness

From left, Peabody residents Aja Alimonti and Amber Kiricoples give a presentation to the Peabody School Committee. (file photo)

PEABODY — A pair of Peabody High seniors recently launched a new initiative to deliver a message on the importance of mental health awareness.

The Mental Health Matters 5K Walk, the brainchild of classmates Amber Kiricoples and Aja Alimonte, will be held on Saturday, May 1 at 11 a.m.

“Aja and I are so excited to be able to kick off National Mental Health Awareness Month (in May), as we have been working on this idea for a long time and were thrilled when we finally got the okay from the city to do it,” said Kiricoples. “We have had so many people already stepping up with donations and offers to volunteer and just, in general, to ask to help and do whatever they can to make it successful.”

The proceeds from the walk will be used by Alimonte’s and Kiricoples’ Mental Health Matters organization to fund programs across the city and in the schools.

“The hope is we keep the proceeds local and anything left over will be donated to Mental Health America and DECA, (formerly Distributive Education Clubs of America, a 501 not-for-profit career and technical student organization).

“We are still in the process of figuring out the final decision regarding the programs we will be able to help and are working with one of our sponsors, Regulate Yours (a life coaching and therapy company owned by Peabody High graduates, sisters Kristina and Arjana Makoci), to figure out how we can make the most beneficial decision for our community,” Alimonte said.

Alimonte said she and Kiricoples are going back before the school committee on a proposal to add a unit on matters of mental health as either an elective or part of the regular health department curriculum.

“We presented it to the committee in December and got great support on that and also on a revised absence policy, so we were very happy about that, and will be going back to finalize things soon,” Alimonte said.

Kristina Mokoci said what Kiricoples and Alimote are doing “is simply amazing.

“Both girls have a passion for this important issue that schools are not addressing enough,” she said. “Nobody wants to talk about it, so they have taken this another level, and it’s so impressive.”

Tom Gould’s Treadwell’s Ice Cream will be giving away free ice cream to the first 200 people to arrive on May 1. Phil Mitchell’s Champions Pub brick oven pizza truck — among other food and beverage vendors —  will also be on-site. Champions will donate proceeds from food sales directly to Mental Health Matters.

A variety of mental health-themed goodies and products, including stress balls, bracelets, socks and bumper stickers will be available for purchase.

The walk begins and ends at the South Memorial Elementary School at 16 Maple St. Extension off Lynnfield Street.

The cost to participate is $15 per person with the field capped at 150 to comply with COVID safety guidelines. Check-in begins at 10 a.m. with the first wave of walkers starting at 11. The start will be staggered to ensure social distancing is observed.

To register, go to

Anne Marie Tobin can be reached at


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