Mental health care advocate Greg Adams remembered for inspiring others

ADRIAN — Greg Adams, a leading advocate for mental health care services, is being remembered for his selflessness and courage after his death Sunday.

Adams, 48, of Adrian died almost a week after being hit by a car while jogging at about 7 am Feb 7. He was jogging in the northbound lane of Howell Highway north of Oakwood Road when a northbound car struck him, the Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office reported Sunday. He was transported to ProMedica Toledo Hospital where he died from his injuries.

Adams was the founder of the annual E-race the Stigma 5K run and had recently resigned from the Lenawee Community Mental Health Authority board, where he had been chairman, after being hired by the LCMHA as a peer support specialist, his fiancee, Stefani Kozlowski , said Monday.

Greg Adams of Adrian shows off the Hal Madden Outstanding Public Service Award, which was presented to him Oct.  21, 2019, during the fall conference of the Community Mental Health Authority of Michigan in Traverse City.  Adams, an advocate for mental health care, died Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, after being hit by a car while jogging last week.

“He was thrilled to have that job,” she said.

Everything was going well in his life.

“He was just over the moon happy. He was so happy to be getting married. That was incredibly important to him. I mean, me, as well; for him, especially. He just really wanted that legal definer, you know, and “He was excellent in his professional career. He was so happy to have found a job that was the perfect fit for him, so that he could continue to further his work to help others who had mental health issues. And at the same time, it.” was a professional career. You know, our lives were just really coming together just perfect.”

The night before he was struck, Adams and Kozlowski had started planning their wedding, she said. It was going to be on July 14 with a service at Zingerman’s Cornman Farms in Dexter and dinner at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, the location of their first date.

“He was in a really great place up until the accident happened,” Kozlowski said. “That’s just been the way for, I think, all of us but especially for me that when that happened to him, it wasn’t a lot of suffering like we weren’t upset with each other. Everything was just like sunshine and rainbows, so to speak.”

The E-race the Stigma 5K addressed Adams’ passion for mental and physical health. He came up with the idea for the E-Race because of his own experience using exercise as part of the treatment regimen he used after being diagnosed bipolar. He originally took up running to lose weight and improve his physical fitness and worked his way from weighing 250 pounds to about 150.

“What really kept me buoyed was working out,” Adams said in a 2014 Daily Telegram interview. “It gave me something to work toward. It anchored me.”

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Kozlowski said Adams’ latest fitness goal was to get in shape to run the Boston Marathon.

His forthrightness about his mental health led him to being asked to join the LCHMA board. His advocacy for those with mental illnesses and ensuring they have access to treatment was recognized statewide in 2019 with the Hal Madden Outstanding Public Service Award from the Community Mental Health Authority of Michigan.

Kozlowski said she’s heard from many of Adams’ friends this past week, sharing some stories about how they have been an inspired by him, both for his work on mental health matters but also from those in the running community.

“It is difficult to find words that fully express what a wonderful person he was,” Michael R. Olsaver, one of Lenawee County’s circuit judges and a lifelong friend of Adams, said in an email. “Greg was kind, thoughtful and generous. He was a constant source of inspiration to be the best version of yourself. Greg obviously loved running. He competed in several marathons and triathlons. I run a very little bit, over the last few years only about enough to make sure I can finish the E-race each year, but Greg never failed to mention if he saw me out running and always had words of encouragement. …

“Few people speak openly about their inner struggles. Greg not only spoke about his, he used his experience to help others. It was a joy to watch him create the E-race and then grow it into such a big event.”

In an interview in 2016, Adams talked about being hospitalized, receiving his diagnosis, then working up the courage to tell others.

“I told my closest friends, and they were very accepting,” he said. “And the more you talk about it, the more it helps.”

Kathryn Szewczuk, executive director of the LCHMA, echoed Kozlowski’s comment that Adams made friends easily with anyone he met.

“He had the ability to make anybody feel special,” Szewczuk said.

“The E-race was Greg’s way of impacting the community,” Szewczuk added. “It was his way of making it OK to talk about mental health.”

The seventh E-Race the Stigma run took place this past September instead of its usual time in May as organizers allowed more time for participants to take advantage of COVID-19 vaccines and for case counts to fall. The 2020 run was conducted virtually.

The run through central Adrian Streets is one of the best-attended fundraising runs in the county. The first race had about 400 participants and raised about $24,000 for mental health services. About 800 people signed up for the 2021 run, Kozlowski said. About 900 people ran in the 2019 run, which was the last E-race conducted before the pandemic.

Adams’ interest in community involvement didn’t stop with the E-race and volunteer work through the Adrian Morning Rotary Club. Kozlowski said she called him the “junior mayor of Adrian.”

“He was really on the road to becoming very important in the community,” she said.

“He would often text me from Adrian city commission meetings when something interesting was happening,” Olsaver said.

Adams was happy knowing that he was having a positive influence on people’s lives, Kozlowski said.

“Greg didn’t have a negative bone in his body,” she said. “He did not and he would never entertain the thought that anything was going poorly. He always had hope and always just knew things were going to work out and be OK. And I just think he kind of gave that to everyone he came in contact with.”

A final act of giving was donating organs to help others in need. Kozlowski said his lungs, liver, kidneys, corneas, skin and other tissues, and heart valves were able to be used. His heart was not able to be used because there wasn’t a suitable recipient close enough to do the transplant.

Visitation for Adams will be from 5 to 7 pm Friday, Feb. 18, and noon to 2 pm Saturday, Feb. 19, at Anderson-Marry Funeral Home in Adrian. A celebration of his life will begin at 2 p.m

“We invite anyone who knew Greg to come to Saturday’s service to share their personal stories of how Greg impacted their lives,” Kozlowski said in an email.

A funeral Mass will take place at 10:30 am March 8 at Holy Family Parish-St. Mary’s campus in Adrian.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to support Kozlowski and Adams’ step-daughter, Meredith. Visit gofund.me/4ba0438e to contribute.

Daily Telegram staff writer Brad Heineman contributed to this report.

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