A Message of Gratitude to the NEDAwareness Week Lighting Partners and Volunteer Photographers

NEDAW 2021 Blog Banner_1
Yasemin Merwede photo

Yasemin Merwede

Every year in February, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) leads the largest national outreach effort to raise awareness about eating disorders: National Eating Disorders (#NEDAwareness) Week. NEDAwareness Week (February 22 – February 28, 2021) is an annual campaign to bring public attention to the critical needs of individuals and families dealing with this mental illness.

A popular component of this campaign is the national lighting partner initiative. From the iconic Empire State Building in the east to the famed Columbia Center in the west, more than 100 prominent landmarks in dozens of cities and over 40 states will unite in this coast-to-coast effort by illuminating in blue and green in observation of NEDAwareness Week 2021. NEDA is proud to organize these dedicated lighting partners from around the country in a national show of support for the eating disorder community, with the hope of raising awareness for all those affected by this disease.

I had the pleasure of spearheading the lighting partner outreach on behalf of NEDA for the past several years, and had the honor of leading the initiative to grow from 23 lightings in less than a dozen states in 2015, to over 100 lighting partners in over 40 states in 2020. It was thrilling to bring this experience to hundreds of people across the United States.

As NEDA achieved yearly national increases of lighting events, they were overwhelmed with inspiring messages from members of the community. Individuals, activists, volunteers and treatment professionals nationwide have expressed that the lightings had a profound impact on them and their loved ones.

These lightings symbolize a beacon of hope, connection, and community for individuals and families affected by this serious illness, united in solidarity during NEDAwareness Week. Standing under the night sky, gazing upon an illuminated building in their community in observation of an illness they or their loved ones have personally endured, is a powerful and moving experience. I was touched to hear declarations by people saying they felt inspired, their struggles recognized, and their voices heard.

Eating disorders are a disease that is often suffered in silence and solitude, but in these moments where we unite during NEDAwareness Week, those participating feel a part of the larger NEDA community.

Indeed, these building lightings are a reflection of thousands whose inner light continues to shine despite the battles they face. The building lights may turn on silently in the darkness, but they deliver a direct and loud message from NEDA: Keep fighting, we continue to support you, we believe in you.

NEDA and I would like to express sincere gratitude to the hundreds of volunteer photographers participating in capturing the powerful moments of lightings in their communities, graciously allowing us to share their photos with the greater NEDA community via the yearly Facebook Lighting Partner albums. Click here for the NEDA Facebook photo album of the 2020 Lighting Partner Initiaitve for NEDAwareness Week.

We would like to take a moment to thank all of our lighting partners. Your participation helps us bring greater recognition to this important mental health issue. From national landmarks, to famous bridges and monuments, from town halls to convention centers, we are grateful to those who made the commitment to join us in shining the spotlight on eating disorders.

For all those who continue to message us over the years saying they are inspired by this initiative and the NEDAwareness campaign, we want to proclaim that we are inspired by you: by your support, your indomitable fighting spirit, and your continued participation in helping us raise awareness year after year.

Please visit the NEDAwareness Week 2021 site where we invite Every Body to Have a Seat at the Table.

Be safe, and be well. Thank you.

– Yasemin Merwede

Yasemin Merwede worked at the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) for 9 years as a Programs Specialist, Conference Coordinator and later as a Consultant supporting the programs and communications team with NEDAcon and NEDAwareness Week. As a Turkish-American, Yasemin is dedicated to helping elevate the voices of marginalized communities in the field of eating disorders.