Did you know that I’m a passionate mental health advocate? I’ve been writing about my journey for a few years at places like The Good Men Project, The Mighty, and my blog to both document what I go through with Anxiety and Depression and to provide others with the knowledge that they are not alone and there is hope. What I hadn’t done was to engage on a local level. Last year I decided to change that and joined the Centre County Suicide Prevention Task Force.
It was there that I became acquainted with Marisa Vicere, chairperson of the task force and President of the Jana Marie Foundation. When possible, I began showing up at events and training to become a more educated advocate as well as to lend a hand whenever possible.
Marisa and the foundation are active in local schools and youth groups and offer several different forms of low-cost training that are open to the public. Personally, I’ve taken the QPR course (Question, Persuade, Refer) and the Youth Mental Health First Aid Training and found both to be insightful and tremendously helpful. With that in mind, when Marisa asked if I’d volunteer my time to photograph the foundation’s annual dinner and silent auction, I was quick to say yes.
I suspect the program for the JMF dinner was unique in that Marisa acted primarily as the emcee, utilizing the performances as a means of communicating and spreading their message. It’s fitting that art was the center of the evening since creative expression is a core principle behind nearly everything the foundation does.
From the song written and performed by Jonathan Bojan that he created on the spot from audience cues to the routine performed by Julie Snyder that was the epitome of grace, to the poetry of Kathy Morrow, each performer connected with the audience through their art and bravely conveyed their emotions in doing so.
For me, however, the most moving part of the evening was by William Snyder III. He painted another piece for his Rooster series that he later donated as part of the silent auction. While painting, he told of his own experience with depression and how it shaped him. It brought tears to my own eyes, having experienced many of the same painful emotions not long ago.
You can see the whole gallery of images here.
Music Performance by Jonathan Bojan
Dance performed by Julie Snyder of Mind Body Art
Artist: William Snyder III
Poetry by Kathy Morrow