Mental Health Benefit
By Kevin Lane / May - June, 2011

May is National Mental Health month, which began in 1949. With millions of Americans coping with depression, bi-polar disorder and other chronic conditions, it is heartening to know that there is help available locally for all through the Mental Health Association (M.H.A.) of Broward County, which has been reaching out to those in need for the past 53 years.

Singer Connie Francis, a Broward County resident, will once again bring her star power to the upcoming E.P.I.C. Awards Luncheon to give voice to the importance of mental wellness programs that the M.H.A. of Broward County has been providing for the past 53 years. Francis is the honorary co-chairperson of the event, along with philanthropist Diane Johnson.

Jazz sensation Nicole Henry will also be on hand to entertain the honorees who have helped other people with mental illness, along with their families and friends. The 16th Annual E.P.I.C. Awards Luncheon takes place at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, May 18 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. It is the biggest fund-raiser of the year for M.H.A. Last year it generated roughly $60,000.

"E.P.I.C. stands for exceptional people impacting the community," co-chairperson Sandra Booth explained. "Over the past fifteen years, we have been able to honor some truly exceptional people while, at the same time, fulfilling the mission of the Friends of M.H.A., raising awareness of the Mental Health Association of Broward, and raising money to help fund the shortfall between what is raised through grants and donations and the actual amount needed to pay for the programs."

David Bernard, the popular chief meteorologist on TV's CBS-4 in Miami, will return for the fourth year as master of ceremonies. He will introduce the honorees, including Arnie Marks, the originator of P.R.O.S.P.E.R., which stands for Peers Reaching Out - Support Partners for Emotional Recovery, a program that provides individual and peer support to those facing the challenges of mental illness. Marks is recognized for his life-long advocacy efforts in the area for more than forty years.

Other honorees are Richard Philip, CEO of Florida S.N.A.P. (Special Needs Advisory Partners), who learned lessons in supporting his own family members to help build advocacy strengths and supports for other families in need, and Lorraine Wilby, CEO of the Task Force for Ending Homelessness. She is well-known as a strong advocate and champion for those who are without shelter and in need of supportive links to the community.

Rick Shaw, a celebrity and local media icon who serves as president of the MAJIC Children's Fund, is the fourth honoree. His tireless efforts stimulate community philanthropy and benefit local organizations, children and families in need.

With each year, the E.P.I.C. Awards Luncheon grows in attendance, money raised and community support. Two examples are the donation of $25,000 from philanthropist Diane Johnson and the donation of a cruise by Norwegian Cruise Lines. "These two contributions help validate that we are making a difference... and getting the word out to the community of what M.H.A. is all about," said event co-chairperson Chuck Williams.

Anita Godfrey, president and CEO of M.H.A., said, "We are very excited that Connie Francis continues to help us. In sharing her candid revelations about her own mental health issues, she is using her celebrity to shine a positive light on the life-enhancing power of mental wellness programs and therapies. Last year, when she was honorary chairperson of E.P.I.C., she mesmerized the audience with songs, including, I Made It Through the Rain and Where the Boys Are, which generated enthusiastic audience applause and standing ovations."

Located in Lauderhill, M.H.A. is affiliated with its shopping center neighbor, 9Muses Art Center, a drop-in studio for artists of all kinds, from painters and musicians to poets and actors. The classes, materials, and workshops at 9Muses, open Monday through Saturday, are free to those with a mental illness and for a modest fee to all others. The center is a consumer empowerment program designed to provide an opportunity for self-expression and recovery through the arts.

9Muses Art Center instructor Shane Weaver will return to the luncheon to paint an original oil painting while guests enjoy lunch. Last year, his painting was auctioned for $950 after spirited bidding. An art exhibit and sale of work by 9Muses artists will accent the M.H.A. connection.

Tickets to the E.P.I.C. Awards, where business attire is appropriate, are $60 each and $600 for a table of eight people. Attendees can mail their checks to the Mental Health Association, 7145 West Oakland Park Blvd., Lauderhill, Florida 33313.

Various support groups are offered at no cost to the public at 9Muses covering such diverse issues as depression, anger management, anxiety, schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder. In addition to 9Muses, M.H.A. programs include Listen to Children, I'm Thumbody, the SETH Line Warm Line (see sidebar) and more. For additional information on the programs and services of M.HA. in Broward, call 954-746-2055 or visit For Friends of M.H.A., call Sandra Booth at 954-325-7126.

9381 West Sample Road , Suite 203
Coral Springs, FL 33065
Phone: 954-755-9800
Fax: 954-755-2082

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