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Raising Funds to Raise Spirits.

An online telethon for suicide prevention

by Davi Napoleon

From the September, 2021 issue

The stars will be out (virtually) on September 3 for the second annual livestream fundraiser supporting Garrett's Space, an Ann Arbor-based suicide prevention nonprofit. Modeled after the Jerry Lewis telethon, which raised funds for muscular dystrophy from 1966 to 2014, guests and hosts will appeal for contributions between presentations. Last year, they netted $60,000; this year, they hope to raise significantly more.

During the twenty-four-hour livestream, performers and pols will present songs and speeches, live or on video. They include actors Robert Ariza (Hamilton), Benj Pasek (La La Land, Dear Evan Hansen songwriter), Ashley Park (Emily in Paris), Jo Ellen Pellman (The Prom actor), as well as two actors from Dear Evan Hansen, a movie about suicide. Michigan senator Debbie Stabenow and Maryland congressman Jamie Raskin will join them.

Julie Halpert cofounded Garrett's Space with her husband, Scott, after they lost their son, twenty-three, to suicide. She says she spent "hours and hours" on the phone contacting celebs after local artists, including Mark Madama, a director on U-M's musical theatre faculty, and actor Naz Edwards, who has coached actors now on Broadway, helped her make connections. Funds raised will be used to sustain the Space's wellness program and to develop a holistic haven for young adults, age eighteen to twenty-eight, who struggle with significant mental health issues.

The Halperts envision a residential center in a natural setting offering peer groups, support for families, and activities promoting 'wellness--'including meditation, yoga, art, journaling, and music--as well as individual and group therapy in partnership with the U-M Depression Center. They hope it will create a model that others will replicate across the country.

Currently, Garrett's Space offers a free wellness program where troubled young adults can get together (virtually, for now) for mood and movement sessions, yoga, and peer gatherings with games and icebreakers.

Scott Halpert notes that those dealing with drug or alcohol abuse have organizations that help. They want "to help young adults who are not where they thought they would be, in a relationship or professionally, feel more connected and less inadequate." At Garrett's Space "they will learn how to live in a troubled world."     (end of article)


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