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NAMI Llama

How NAMI SWI is Helping Families

Before children are discharged from the Gateway Regional Medical Center’s Behavioral Health Unit, they receive a stuffed llama as a “going-home” gift to love and embrace. The way this works is that when a child is ready for discharge the staff will give the child a NAMI Llama that has a tag on it informing families that NAMI can help and how to contact us.

The hope is that the child will have at least one warm memory of their visit and if you have held one of our plush Llamas you will understand AND that the parents will be prompted to come to us immediately for help like enrolling in one of our BASICS classes or attending a support group.

Look at it like this – we don‘t look for a gas station until the gauge nudges towards the “E” and we don‘t look for a water fountain until we are thirsty. Likewise we don‘t look for information until we are in critical need. When a family is in crisis, when they are truly parched and running on empty that is the time that they most need NAMI’s help so that is exactly the time that we need to get information in their hands.

You may know that the NAMI office is just a few feet away from the Children’s Behavioral Health Unit. There are some days that the sounds of frustrated, upset, and frightened children that are just beginning treatment echo in the halls. Once Gateway has the child and family stabilized and ready for release then that is the time that NAMI can help those families – but only if they know we are here. That‘s the purpose of the Llama.

Stuffed toys are just $7
Stop by the NAMI office to get yours!
Give the gift of Compassion when you request a NAMI Llama for yourself…
Your donation of $7 also provides a child with a llama friend to take home


Why Llamas? Traditionally llamas are used to carry burdens and are very compassionate animals. They understand when you’re sad and they comfort you. Using that concept the llama became the mascot for NAMI Southwestern Illinois. The NAMI Llama is here to remind you that when you reach out to others for support, NAMI is here to provide it. The original llama idea and artwork were created by a NAMI Southwestern IL member.

Llamas are emotional beings. They understand when you’re sad, and they comfort you. Julie Wier of Wier World Llamas & Alpacas, Fairview Heights, IL

Hope to Come to Your Town Soon

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