MILWAUKEE — About 500 people laced up their shoes to show support for Marquette University President Michael R. Lovell and anyone battling cancer. It was called "Lovell Strong 5k Fun Run," and it took place Nov. 7, 2021.
Dr. Lovell remains on the job while undergoing treatment. The men's lacrosse team organized the run to pay tribute to their leader. Lovell is an avid runner.
"This is something I remember the rest of my life, you know? Makes me so proud to be part of your Marquette community here in Milwaukee," says Lovell. "I just loved everybody who was there and was supporting not just me, but everyone who was experiencing cancer. "
Dr. Lovell has joined a race that could be called a mental health marathon. He and his wife, Amy, formed an organization called SWIM. SWIM raises awareness for the need to treat and understand trauma.
"The whole goal from the beginning was to make Milwaukee the most trauma informed city in the country," explains Lovell. "We've been all about raising awareness. And then we've also been all about collaboration."
SWIM stands for Scaling Wellness in Milwaukee. Community leaders work together to address and heal those affected by trauma.
"We're strategically focusing on different areas, like actual training both for the workforce, but also to help employees and individuals really become the best versions of themselves," says Lovell.
Mental health experts say treating trauma can improve families and reduce societal ills, like violence, addiction, and homelessness.
"We think about children that maybe experienced trauma in their house or don't have things to eat, they've seen violence. When they walk into the classroom, they're not in a part of their brain where they're ready to learn. So how do we ensure that we understand what happened to those kids and help them get to a space where they are having the ability learn?" says Frank Cumberbatch, Vice President for Bader Philathropies.
Diversity was key in choosing leaders to head up SWIM.
Lovell explains, "We have to understand that trauma cuts across all demographics."
Cumberbatch is also on the SWIM board of directors and knows children facing trauma need different learning tools.
"You have to really understand the whole child, or the whole person. You can't expect to tell a child to read, if you don't understand what's going on in that child's brain. If you're thinking about your mom, and you were there when she got shot there's no way that you can read," explains Cumberbatch. "When we say, 'What happened to you?' and say it in an authentic way that the person recognizes that you really want to know, you really want to hear, I think we will get children and families to open up. We will make progress for a fundamental viewpoint of the city if we can start addressing each others' trauma, you know, again, helping to build the best version of themselves."
"It will really help so many of the disparities we see whether it be around education, health care, or economic opportunities. You see all these things you know will be improved because people will function at a much higher level," says Lovell.
And if we realize the importance of joining the race to stronger mental health, more people can feel uplifted just like Dr. Lovell felt after the successful 5K run.
"When you go through cancer, it's hard. There are times when it knocks you down. It's that energy of support that allows you to pick yourself up and keep fighting the fight. Don't ever underestimate the power of kindness," he says.