The City of Castle Pines partnered once again with Mental Health Colorado for the annual Unmasked; A Masquerade Party. The evening was filled with emotional and inspirational stories of tragedy and triumph in the arena of mental illness and substance use. More than $75,000 was raised toward the efforts of promoting mental health, ending stigmas surrounding mental illness, and ensuring equitable access to mental health and substance use services in Colorado.
By Terri Wiebold; photos by Megan Hassler
To unmask something is to expose the true character of it or to reveal the hidden truth behind it. On June 22, the City of Castle Pines, in partnership with Mental Health Colorado, held its annual fundraiser, Unmasked: A Masquerade Party.
The evening, generously hosted by John and Angela Schmidt at Haven in the Pines, opened with three unnamed, masked individuals sharing the intimate details of their very personal struggles with mental health. The accounts were emotional and inspiring and culminated with the courageous unmasking and naming of Michael, Bri and Jordan – the faces behind the masks.
Channel 2 News and Fox 31’s Deborah Takahara emceed the evening, emphasizing the need to de-stigmatize mental illness and treat it as a medical disease. With brave and impassioned vulnerability, she shared her personal challenges navigating the insurance system for her 19-year-old son who is grappling with mental health issues.
According to Mental Health Colorado – a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to promote mental health, ending stigma and ensuring equitable access to mental health and substance use services – more than one million Coloradans experience a mental health or substance use disorder each year. Yet most, including an estimated 60 percent of adults and 70 percent of children, never get the care they need.
“It’s inspiring to be surrounded by so many people with the same goal of making sure all Coloradans have access to high-quality, affordable mental health or substance use services,” said Mental Health Colorado Director of Development Kay Greene. “The work we do would not be possible without our community partners and advocates.”
One such advocate on behalf of those in Douglas County, Deputy County Manager Barbara Drake, was honored as “Individual of the Year” for her work in mental health. Last year’s recipient, Sheriff Tony Spurlock, presented Drake with the award on behalf of Mental Health Colorado.
Speaking out as teen mental health advocates, Rick and Jeanine Padilla shared the tragic loss of their 15-year-old son, Jack, to suicide earlier this year and discussed his struggles with depression and bullying.
World-class athlete and former Denver Broncos “Three Amigos” receiver Vance Johnson spoke candidly about his personal and professional failures and how they all traced back to childhood mental health issues and later substance and alcohol use. In his book, “Uncovered: Why Becoming Less Became Everything,” Johnson credits God and his family for his recovery. Sober for more than four years, Johnson now dedicates his life to helping people who are struggling with addiction.
His impact was best captured on Facebook the following morning by a Castle Pines resident who attended the event:
“Vance Johnson talked about his personal struggles during his playing days with the Broncos and since. I once only knew and admired Vance’s exploits on the football field, but after meeting him and hearing his story, I have a new-found respect and admiration for him as a man, father and caring soul who is giving back to the community and helping to de-stigmatize mental health and substance abuse by sharing the most intimate and painful details of his life. It is not often that meeting one’s heroes from youth exceeds your expectations, but in this case it did. Vance is a remarkable man with a powerful message.”
Johnson’s exuberance and zest for life energized the audience – just in time for the auction and fundraiser to close out the evening. The event raised more than $75,000 for Mental Health Colorado. There is still time to donate to this amazing cause, simply visit www.mentalhealthcolorado.org/donate/. To view a slideshow of the Unmasked event, visit www.castlepinesconnection.com/pages/photos/album19.html.
To take a page from Johnson’s playbook, “Let’s not leave this huddle to go back to the sidelines … let’s take this opportunity to make a difference in the game!”