Mental Health Association’s EPIC 2014 Luncheon: A moving and inspiring event!
By Kevin Lane
The Mental Health Association of Southeast Florida recently honored local community members for their outstanding service in furthering the cause of mental health awareness during their 19th Annual EPIC Awards Luncheon.
The 19th Annual EPIC Awards Luncheon was the best attended in recent years! The signature fundraising event for the Mental Health Association of Southeast Florida (MHA) paid tribute to Exceptional People Impacting the Community (EPIC). According to Paul Jaquith, President & CEO of MHA, “… what these very diverse and dedicated individuals have in common is their commitment to the public good, their efforts to improve the lives of citizens of our communities, and their advocacy for persons with mental illness.” MHA Board Members Yasmine Holbrook and Gary Dirda are Co-Chairs.
A new award was initiated this year when Jen Klaassens, Vice President of Programs for The Wasie Foundation, became the first recipient of the Hal Booth Memorial Award for Philanthropy. “For years, Sandra and Hal Booth were supporters of MHA, both in volunteering their time and in their personal philanthropy. Hal passed away last year after a year-long illness, and both Hal and Sandra wanted any donations in Hal’s memory to be made to MHA,” Paul Jaquith added.
Other honorees include: Dr. Timothy Ludwig, from the Broward Sheriff’s Office; Gwen Henry, GEO Care; Lauren Zuchman, Henderson Behavioral Health; Lysandra Russell & Marcia Barry-Smith, Russell Life Skills and Reading Foundation’s Dragonfly Darlings; Sandra McQueen-Baker, Fresh Start of Miami-Dade, Inc; and Yueh-Mei Kim Nutter with Brinkley Morgan Law Firm.
“We were especially fortunate to have Michael Mayo, longtime columnist at the Sun-Sentinel, as the Master of Ceremonies,” said Dr. Adam Rosen-berg, Chairman of MHA’s Board of Directors. “Through his columns in the Sun-Sentinel and his blog, Michael Mayo has been a tireless advocate for mental health issues.” Mayo has been with the Sun-Sentinel for 25 years and has served as Metro News Columnist since 2002.
Mayo spoke passionately about issues dealing with Mental Health, and he spoke from the heart… relating his own connection to mental illness. His brother, a bright and energetic young man, experienced schizophrenia at the age of 19 and was eventually institutionalized for the remainder of his life. He died at age 52, after suffering from throat cancer for two years.
The theme of the event this year is “labels are for jars, not people.” “The event will feature individually hand painted ceramic jars with a chalk surface label that people can feel free to write in any label they wish,” said Chris Yoculan, director of the 9Muses. The ceramic jars have been painted by the members of the 9MusesArtCenter and will be available for sale at the end of the event. “The MHA works in the community to reduce the stigma associated with Behavioral Health issues and labeling is a constant concern for anyone who receives a diagnosis (label).”
“Since its inception in 1996, over 100 individuals have received an EPIC award for their efforts to benefit the health and wellbeing of our community,” Jaquith added.
The funds raised from the event will go towards supporting the children’s mentoring program, Listen to Children and I’m Thumbody. It will also help the 9MusesArtCenter provide art supplies and equipment for the members who utilize the arts program at the MHA.
MHA recently celebrated its 56th year serving the community. It is located at 7145 W. Okld. Pk. Blvd. in Lauderhill, Fla.