More than 1 in 4 people in Colorado–over a million people–are affected by mental illness. It affects everyone in some way, every day. How much more prevalent does it have to be before mental illness is treated as real and as serious as any physical ailment?

To answer these questions and continue the quest toward advocacy, Mental Health America of Colorado’s annual Tribute dinner drew a packed house at the Sheraton Denver Downtown hotel Saturday night.

This year’s gala paid tribute to an enterprising team of young mountaineers: the Climb Out of the Darkness Expedition. The team scaled all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks this summhikers MHAC3er in order to raise awareness – and reduce the stigma – of mental illness. Participants wanted to raise awareness and illustrate parallels between the challenges they faced every day–it was difficult to get up and keep at it day after day, just as it is for many people with mental illness.

MHAC is Colorado’s leading advocate for the prevention, early intervention and effective treatment of mental illness. Their annual Tribute brings together 700 supporters in an evening of celebration.Tribute is MHAC’s premier fundraiser. Proceeds from the event support their organization’s life-changing work: promoting the screening, diagnosis and treatment of mental health and substance use disorders; preventing discrimination; and providing nationally recognized leadership in shaping public policy.