This month, over 550 attendees from around the state will gather to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the MMHF Champions Gala, hosted by the Missouri Mental Health Foundation. The organization, a 501(c)(3) local to Jefferson City, has a state-wide mission to educate the public, create a better understanding of, and provide hope to individuals and families living with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and substance use disorders.

This celebration of awareness, which has been held at local venue, Capital Plaza, for the last ten years, is scheduled for Wednesday, June 14th from 5 to 9 p.m. Each year, the banquet celebrates three outstanding individuals in our state who have made positive contributions to their community, exemplified commitment and vision, and whose actions have increased the independence of others. Each of the three champions are leaders whose dedication and commitment to excellence are derived from their own remarkable stories of personal experiences with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and substance use disorders.

Executive Director for the Missouri Mental Health Foundation, Patty Henry, shares, “While the event is designed to raise money, it is truly an event about awareness. It’s an opportunity to really celebrate success and recovery. All too often, we hear only the negative associations regarding mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance use, when there are so many untold stories of recovery and success. It’s the positive aspect, the work of overcomers and champions, that we gather to celebrate.” Both the foundation and event committee aim to keep ticket prices very reasonable, at only $40 per person, to maximize public attendance and community involvement. In order to host such a successful event, the foundation relies on the support of its sponsors, like 2017 Gold Sponsors Alkermes, Missouri Coalition for Community Behavioral Health, Learfield Communication, and Netsmart. “Their support is critical, and we are so thankful,” says Patty. Both Silver and Platinum sponsorships include a 10-person table at the event.

Sponsors, and other guests, will enjoy a program full of excitement. From 5 to 6 p.m. attendees will network, enjoy punch, and browse the silent auction table, Director’s Creativity Showcase exhibit, and Artwork Sale. The art showcase, which travels throughout the state from August to December, is open to any individual receiving services through the Missouri Department of Mental Health provider network. Cash prizes, first through fifth, are awarded to individuals in each category: Mental Illness, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Use Disorders. The silent auction will include many Missouri travel experiences such as weekends at Tan-Tar-A, Branson, Six Flags, and other intriguing items like baskets, jewelry, and home décor. A crowd favorite, Yankee Pot Roast topped with a roasted shallot and beef demi glaze, will be served and enjoyed before the award recipients take the stage.

This year the individuals selected for the 2017 Championship award include: Madison McDowell, Cathy Enfield, and David Stoecker. Madi, the first ever youth to receive the award, is a voice of acceptance and advocacy for other teens who, like herself, are facing social stigmas associated with mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. Madison orchestrates informal support groups, shares encouraging words and information regarding suicide prevention, and teaches others to accept, and educate themselves about the challenges they face. Cathy, who is no stranger to the challenges others face, has made it her lifelong goal to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves by helping to advocate for Disability Rights. Cathy currently serves as the president of the People First of Missouri, chairs two other boards, and is affiliated with many others. In addition to being a recipient of many prestigious honors, she can also be credited with working with her State Representative to get legislation passed changing the language on parking signs from “handicapped” and “disabled” to “accessible.” Speaking of accessible, the last of the 2017 Champions, David, has been coined the #HopeDealer. David, in addiction recovery since 2009, holds a Bachelor’s in Psychology and Sociology, as well as a Master’s in Social Work. Additionally, he is the co-founder of the Springfield Recovery Community Center, and founder and director of Better Life in Recovery. In his own words, David has gone from a dealer of dope, to a dealer of hope by creating an organization whose environment offers support, education, and fun for those who want to regain the promise of joy in their lives and communities. This year’s winners will be joined by 24 winners from previous years to celebrate the 10th anniversary. All winners, current and past, will be escorted down the red carpet by Missouri Mental Health Foundation Board of Directors, Department of Mental Health Senior and Executive Management, and the Award Judges. Award nominees will be recognized by local KRCG television personality and Master of Ceremonies, Rod Smith, who also shares a passion for helping local charities

Once all awards have been presented, author, motivational speaker, and CBS contributing reporter, Lee Woodruff, will take the stage to share her message of love, healing, and understanding. In January 2006, Lee and husband, Bob Woodruff, once the newly appointed co-anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight, along with their four children, tragically lost the life they knew when Bob’s armored vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb while reporting in Iraq. The attack, which left Bob in a medically induced coma with life threatening traumatic brain injury, changed their lives in an instant. Since then, Lee, and her husband, have authored several books including In an Instant: A Family’s Journey of Love and Healing, Perfectly Imperfect – A Life in Progress, and New York Times Best Seller Those We Love the Most. Alongside her, guests will recount the family’s tremendous hurdles and embark on their journey to recovery, and learn about the development of The Bob Woodruff Family Fund for Traumatic Brain Injury which advocates for the support and recovery of today’s veterans and their families.

With more attendees than ever before, the Missouri Mental Health Foundation’s mission to spread awareness is well underway. By visiting the organizations website, you can find out more about the 2017 Missouri Mental Health Champions Banquet, other upcoming events, and submit nominations for 2018 award recipients beginning at the end of October.