Mental Wheels Foundation (MWF) is running its first annual WALK4PAWS Mental Health March Dog Walking Challenge throughout March.

Walk4Paws aims to raise $1 million and have 10,000 people walking with their dogs by the end of March to inspire those suffering from mental and physical health adversities.

Gareth Pike, co-founder of MWF, said money raised will go towards mental health and research programs to make a positive impact on mental health in Australia.

“Research shows that walking improves physical fitness – reducing obesity – and mental health in both people and their pets. Our main goal is to take 1,000 dogs from animal shelters and, in partnership with MindDog, train them to be service dogs and paired with a person suffering from mental health adversities in a 12-month program that delivers amazing results!”

According to Lifeline, nine Australians die every day by suicide and more than 65,000 make a suicide attempt each year.

Vaughan McVilly, a mental health advocate who co-founded the Walk4Paws Walking Challenge, suffered from mental health struggles and was guided back to a better place in part to his Border Collie, Gilly.

“Gilly and I walk every day and love to learn new things together. Gilly shows unconditional love and provides me with a higher sense of purpose. She relies on me for physical and mental stimulus as well as food, and I depend on her for mental and physical motivation and licks!”

To participate in the Walk4Paws Mental Health March Dog Walking Challenge, simply walk your dog for 30 minutes every day for 30 days, post a pic or video of you walking alongside the tag #Walk4Paws and #MentalHealthMarch, and nominate another dog walker to accept the challenge.

Image: Vaughn McVilly and Gilly.