SOURCE: SHINE Initiative

October 20, 2014 15:05 ET

SHINE Initiative Celebrates 10th Anniversary With Kennedy and Dukakis at Worcester Gala

Conversation About Mental Illness Reaches New Pitch

WORCESTER, MA--(Marketwired - Oct 20, 2014) -  "Thank you to all family members and friends who stick with your loved ones when we are not very lovable," were among the many words of appreciation delivered by former U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy to an audience of 500 adults and youth as the SHINE Initiative celebrated its 10th anniversary at Mechanics Hall, Worcester.

Kennedy, who delivered a keynote address at the milestone gala, served 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and was the author and lead sponsor of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. He recounted that he was originally one of 25 signers of the parity law and was a junior congressman from the smallest state in the union at the time.

"Imagine my surprise when I arrived in Washington, D.C., that I was asked by Senator Chris Dodd if I would like to be the lead sponsor of the bill." He recounted that popular bills are most often sponsored by senior committee chairs, but in this instance congressional leaders were reluctant to be identified as sponsors.

Kennedy noted that the stigma associated with mental illness caused many to shy away for fear they or their families would be ostracized in their home communities. Later in his address he commended the SHINE Initiative and its guests for making mental illness a topic of mainstream conversation.

Several achievements were recognized during the SHINE Initiative anniversary gala.

Ed Manzi, Jr., chair of the SHINE Initiative Advisory Board, presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to former Massachusetts Governor and First Lady Michael and Kitty Dukakis, noting their years of advocacy on behalf of people who live with mental illness. Mrs. Dukakis thanked her husband for his faithful support and commended the audience "and everyone in this room who is reaching out to somebody else who needs your help."

She then saluted the SHINE Initiative and its supporters, saying "pat yourselves on the back for all you have done in a relatively short period of time."

When the SHINE Initiative was established in 2004 by the directors and employees of Fidelity Bank it espoused a broad mission to "shine a light on mental illness." Its mission has since focused on recognizing mental illness in children and young adults as a "mainstream health issue." Its approach has been to engage adolescents, young adults, their families and other caregivers in mainstream conversation. During just the past two years it has had dialogue with nearly 5,000 young people in schools, colleges and universities throughout Central Massachusetts.

Manzi, who is the chairman and CEO of Fidelity Bank, proudly announced to the Mechanics Hall audience that the evening's celebration had yielded contributions of more than $175,000, and that more than $1,000,000 has now been raised by The SHINE Initiative since its inception, much of which has been invested in mental health awareness, education and research, including several mental health and youth-serving programs and organizations in Central Massachusetts.

Manzi and Paul Richard, the SHINE Initiative's executive director, also presented the annual Community Hero Award to the students and faculty from the Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical High School. They were honored for their efforts of the past year to raise the level of awareness of mental illness in young people, both in their school and in the community.

The 10th anniversary gala also featured the induction into the SHINE Initiative Hall of Fame its first class of individuals and institutions whose early support and commitment helped build its foundation and shaped its mission. Inducted into the Hall of Fame were: Kenneth Ansin, Peter and Leslie Bovenzi, Mount Wachusett Community College, Fitchburg State University, HealthAlliance Hospital, Heywood Hospital, Maedon Coburn, president of Appleseed Personnel; Deborah Ekstrom, president and CEO of Community Healthlink; Senator Jennifer Flanagan; Phil Grzewinski and the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts; Davis Advertising of Worcester; Paul Brown, executive director of Leadership Dynamics; the Fraternal Order of Eagles of Leominster; James Notaro and Joyce Thibault from the SHINE Initiative Advisory Board; and the Fidelity Bank Board of Directors.

The gala also featured a riveting performance by singer, songwriter and mental health advocate Meg Hutchinson.

Editors: additional high-res photos are available - contact Henry Stimpson

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