Seeds of Hope Gala: I am only one or am I?

What it’s all about…building relationships to change the world one person at a time. Right?!?

I had the opportunity to attend the Seeds of Hope Gala hosted by the New York City – NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) organization this past month.  This event honored extraordinary local leaders in the mental health community whose dedication, knowledge and vision have helped pave the way in reducing the stigma around mental illness. It was an evening of mingling, food, silent auctions, honorees and distinguished speakers such as Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Dr. Lisa Dixon, Shari Goldfarb and our host for the night – Chris Noth “Mr. Big”.

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For many this night was all about “Mr. Big” – I must admit that was pretty cool.  Seriously he sat at the table next to me – wow, of course we pretended to take my photo intentionally with him in the background so close.  What I walked away with from this event became so clear when I began to write this blog – it was so not about Mr. Big – it was about… well read and you will find out.

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I had been invited by a dear friend of mine as her plus one.  Sure, free trip to NY, see Mr. Big, why not.  We sat at table right up front.  Prime realestate – table # 4 out of over 100 tables to be specific.  Wow, being the plus one of a dear friend who clearly is a big deal – I had no idea.  Our table full of others unknown to me at the time.  All of which were specials guests of Barbara Ricci – President of NAMI – NYC.  What I would come to learn over the course of the evening is their ties run deep for the same mission all through a variety of complex and complicated paths bringing them all to this table on this very night.  They all shared their stories of how they knew Barbara. Mine being the plus one of @todayswisewoman.  Although, I did have a story to tell about my and Netsmart’s connection to NAMI and the work we do here at Netsmart aligned to the cause EveryDayMATTERS.  Sharing my story was genuine and sincere yet I left the conversation feeling like something was missing.

The night went on and I engaged more and more with these amazing individuals at our table. Joe Pyle, President of the Scattergood Foundation; “Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health” and a few of his colleagues each of which had a passion fdiscussions of partnership ensued. To learn more about their vision checkout www.scattergoodfoundation.org.

Next to me was a school Teacher from Barbara’s daughter’s class whose connection to educating and teaching children through the #IWillListen Campaign is unprecedented in public education.

Then I met Ruth Thomas, Director and Producer of the documentary film The Reject. Again, wow life changing work on the experience of rejection and the medical tie to physical pain. Her work resonates with me in expanding my knowledge and scope of the work we at Netsmart are seeking achieve around the connection between mental and physical health. So much work to be done to make everyday matter for every single one of us on this earth.  It is overwhelming when you ponder the idea of the task ahead.

Up next was Representative Patrick Kennedy, serving 16 years in U.S. House and now co-founder of One Mind, a national coalition seeking new treatments and cures for neurologic and psychiatric diseases of the brain afflicting one in every three Americans. He spoke of his journey with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA). His stories of defeat, concessions and perseverance gave the audience a shared moment of connection over the challenge that lies ahead that must be fought with passion and determination. It is not to revel in disgust of the reality of how MHPAEA gained traction and was passed. It is to revel in his having the conviction to not let it die on the vine. After he finished speaking he came over to our table to sit and talk to colleagues.   Again, there I am in ah by my surroundings. Their cause so much bigger than themselves all coming from a different angle stemming from a personal experience seeking to change the world!

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To round out the night, we heard about the wondrous works of the honorees in NYC and took the pledge to listen. All part of the #IWillListen Campaign.   Musician Jenna Kyle – Keep on Movin’ On – download the whole #IWillListen Album played for us as we ate dinner and prepared to end the evening.

Each person I met gave me pause to think why am I not doing more? I think to myself, who am I? I am only one. Yet, somehow they too are all only one in their respective field, passion, city, region, etc. and they have not let that hold them back. I too am only one! What will I do today to change the world?

So today – I step out to share with you and pledge to act and advocate for a cause so near to mine and my families heart.  My personal story has yet to be told and what I do to make a difference is still to be written.

For those who do not already know my dear friend is my mother!  She is known worldwide as @todayswisewomen on Twitter with over 6,000 followers.    What she does not know is she thinks I did her a favor by being her plus one when the reality is I was the big winner that night.  #CauseConnected

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NAMI is National Alliance on Mental Illness.  The funds raised from at this event will continue to support funding for the #IWillListen campaign and NAMI-NYC Metro’s three signature psychoeducation courses, over twenty support groups and public education events that help thousands of New York City residents each year.

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