Our Mind Miles Initiative

We are so excited for our first annual mind miles initiative and hope you will participate to help support and raise awareness for mental health.

Join Us on October 10th for our first Inaugural Mind Miles Run.  This will be the last day to collect your miles.  We will meet at Kittatinny State Park at 9:00 am.  Choose your distance and run at your own pace.  All ages are welcome! Meet us in the main parking lot located at 199 Goodale Rd., Newton, NJ 07860.

Here is my story and how it led to the founding of Root Runners.

From 9/10 – 10/10, Root Runners will donate a dollar and at the end of the month, a check will be sent to a special charitable organization that focuses on mental health awareness, in-field services, and beyond. This year, Root Runners has chosen The Green Beret Foundation. To find out more about this great organization and all that it does within the special forces community, go to.

My journey into mental health understanding began on September 11th, 2001 when the world trade center was attacked. A day our country and the world will never forget. My father, Joseph Vilardo, worked on the 104th floor for Cantor Fitzgerald and on that day, along with thousands of others, lost his life.

As a thirteen-year-old boy navigating the waters ahead, I was scared, confused, upset, angry, and lost. My mother gave it her all to keep myself and my sister strong, focused and motivated. As the years grew, so did my decline in mental health. The depression and anxiety consumed my life. Turned a vivacious soul into a dark, cold, and numb place.

There was one night when I was 19 years old where I couldn’t face the darkness anymore. The spiraling abuse of darkness had taken its toll. As I laid and closed my eyes, I fell. Free fell into a hole I’ve never been in. I didn’t know what to do. I asked for help. I asked for help, please help me. Please someone, please help me. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t. Show me, please just show me.
I was immediately thrown into a memory, one that took place on September 10th, 2001. My dad walked into my room as I was studying for my spelling test the next day, came over to my bed, and asked me to go up to the High School track with him for a walk. Sure thing I replied, secretly excited I didn’t have to study anymore.

We walked out the back door and down the deck steps, down the walkway and driveway, and up the street, we began. What a beautiful late September afternoon. The sun was lowering through the blue skies and as we walked up our road to the High School you could breathe the cool air and feel the warmth of the cooling sun. We got to the track and started walking around. My dad looked at me and said alright, we are going to walk the curves and run the straights. Ok, sounds good I said!

That memory, that moment, would be the last I could remember being with him. But in this darkness, in my plea for help, that moment woke me up, threw me out of bed, into my sneakers, and out the door for a run. That moment, that memory would take me through worn sneakers and into my first 5k. That moment and memory ignited a passion and fuel for improvement and pushed me through a 10k. That moment and power pushed me through the distances of both a half and full marathon. Once unattainable thoughts proved achievable and accomplished. Moments and hard work used to show others, show my family, my sister, and my mother that no matter the depth of darkness, the light will find its way.

It was at that moment, that PRAYER, that showed me where I needed to go and how to get there.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.”
-Romans 5:3

After seeing what running did for me and how it’s helped so many others I decided to take it to a larger platform to continue my mission of using exercise and running to help benefit mental health. As a result, Root Runners was formed.

Running and exercise can combat mental illnesses like Depression and Anxiety. Science and studies continue to grow every year. At Root Runners, we believe being active can help alleviate and manage certain levels of mental health illnesses. Studies such as James Blumenthals 1999 Duke University SMILE study show that running can be just as effective as anti-depressants and should be used for first-line treatment against these illnesses.

Join us in our mission to spread the mental benefits of running and walking. Remember, being mindful matters.

Matty Vilardo
Founder of Root Runners

Learn more about the Green Beret Foundation

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