Embrace Employee Spotlight: Joel Kehm
There’s a lot to love about Embrace Home Loans, but one of our strongest assets has always been our employees. This month, we’re featuring one employee from our IS department, Joel Kehm. On September 10, Joel will attempt to run 80 miles across Rhode Island on the North-South Trail.
Joel is taking on this challenge to raise money and awareness for the ongoing young adult mental health crisis. We struggle as a nation to address this public health crisis, and it’s become clear to Joel that there are a lot more people — friends, coworkers, strangers — all sharing in this struggle. With this event, he wants to give others hope and let them know they’re not alone.
JOEL KEHM, Data Architect
What inspired you to attempt this run?
For the last two years, my family has been struggling with something arguably more destructive to us and our society than Covid — the mental health crisis in young adults. During this time, I witnessed firsthand the sheer magnitude of the issue. The trips to the emergency room. The long waits for a behavioral health bed — not hours but days or weeks. The discharge — with no further support. Just long wait lists. Typically, it takes months to get into a program or see a therapist who is qualified to help. It’s a terrifying situation. And as a parent, you feel helpless and hopeless.
Why did you name this challenge “By yourself, but not alone”?
Because that’s our reality. We feel alone, but we don’t need to be. There are a lot more people than you think, including many in the Embrace family, who are going through similar experiences.
The isolation can be overwhelming, but it’s less so when you come to understand that you are not on your own. We can offer one another comfort and consolation, and even short moments of respite help carry us through our days.
How is the mental health journey similar to long-distance running?
I’ll be by myself for the full run, but never alone. That’s also the case with our struggle to guide our children through their crises. So many times we feel failure. We feel alone. But we aren’t. Even if we can’t “fix” anything, we can offer support and encouragement.
How can I run 80 miles? I can’t. I can run one mile 80 times. It’s the live-in-the-moment mindset. This message resonates especially well with kids. They need to focus on one step at a time, like getting through today. These little things become what you start living for. Focusing on the progress, the good days, not the struggles.
Tell me about the nonprofit you chose.
The Jed Foundation (JED) is a national nonprofit that protects the emotional health of teens and young adults, giving them the skills and support they need to survive and thrive. This is the age when kids are pushing their parents away. Their whole drive is toward independence, but they don’t have many of these skills yet.
Have you always been a long-distance runner?
The distances keep getting longer. This run will be my top personal best by 30 miles.
How have you been prepping for this run?
Each weekend, I run about a quarter of the trail, so I get to know it. The whole thing makes me anxious, and the way I handle that is to do as much prep as possible. I control my anxiety through preparation — building a mental picture in my head about how I can succeed can get me across the finish line. In this way, running is like many things in life.
Is there any part of the trail that’s exceptionally challenging?
The beginning. I guess that’s another good analogy. The beginning is totally overwhelming. And I’ll be starting at night in complete darkness — so if I time it right, I’ll finish with my feet in the ocean just as the sun is setting.
Want to help Joel raise money for this cause?
The link to his fundraiser is: https://jedfoundation.crowdchange.co/26638