Keep Calm and Fight Stigma

Raise $100 for NAMI Fox Valley and Receive Awesome T-Shirt

By Wendy Magas

Communications Director

After noodling around ideas for this year’s Bowl-a-Thon T-shirt, we have a design: KEEP CALM AND FIGHT STIGMA. You’ve most likely seen plenty “Keep Calm” T-keep-calm-fight-stigma-webShirts and images floating around social media with various sayings and witticisms. But we believe our version is extra special! You’ll see that we’ve included in our design the green Mental Health Awareness Ribbon, the NAMI Grassroots symbol, the Iris, and of course, the NAMI logo. Every bowler who raises at least $100 will receive this T-shirt.

NAMI Fox Valley’s second-annual “Strike Out Stigma” Bowl-a-Thon is planned for Saturday, Oct. 4 at the Super Bowl in Appleton. Please join us as we raise funds for NAMI Fox Valley and awareness about mental illness. Click here for information on how to join and start a team.

A little background for you: The Iris is NAMI’s symbol of hope and courage. The NAMI grassroots emblem, meanwhile, is a reminder that NAMI grew from the ground up – from parents, consumers and family members coming together and demanding better treatment and services for people living with mental illness. Now more than 25 years later, NAMI has more than a 1,000 affiliates across the country!

We are so proud to be that little Wisconsin affiliate that could! And we’re not so little anymore – we are fortunate to have a staff of a dozen talented employees, more than 250 volunteers, an amazing board of directors, a generous community, and supporters who believe in our mission and help us raise funds each fall to support our life-changing programs and services.

But of course the Bowl-a-Thon is about more than just raising money. We are also out to raise awareness, start conversations, and get people more comfortable talking about mental illness. And it’s also about being brave and calling out stigma when we see it and letting people know it’s not okay to blame or discriminate against someone for being sick or make fun of people with brain disorders.

My family and I were visiting Marquette, Mich. recently and my youngest son and I were taking a stroll downtown, visiting the various shops. We stopped by a trendy mean-shirtT-shirt shop, obviously targeted for teens and college students, and were perusing the many shirts with their snarky, sarcastic and silly sayings and graphics. We were having a few laughs when my son’s face suddenly dropped. He turned to me and pointed at one particular shirt. Then he paused and whispered, “Mom, that T-shirt is really mean. I think they are making fun of me and people with brain disorders.”

He was right. I could feel his sense of shame as he lowered his head and wondered out loud. “Why do people think having bipolar is funny? I wish they knew what my life was like and then they wouldn’t think it’s funny.”

My inner tiger mom and all her fury began to well up inside of me as my mind raced to compose a biting complaint that I would promptly share with the store manager. I mulled over my choice of words and my impulse was to march over to the guy standing behind the cash register, with hurtful T-shirt in hand, and angrily say, “If you substituted the word ‘bipolar’ with ‘cancer’ on this shirt, would you sell it? Of course you wouldn’t, moron, because having cancer isn’t ‘awesome.’ And neither is having bipolar disorder.”

I glanced at the guy at the register. He appeared to be only a few years older than my son. He most likely wasn’t the one who selected and purchased the inventory. So instead, I paused, took a few deep breaths, and told myself to calm down. I turned to my son and we huddled at the back of the store discussing what to do and say. We decided polite but brutal honesty was the better way to go. We practiced a few lines. And then I followed my son to the register.

He held up the T-shirt to the young man behind the counter.  As my son awkwardly prepared to deliver his response, the clerk asked, “Will this be it for you today?” To which my son responded: “I don’t want to buy this shirt. I wanted to let you know that this shirt is really mean and it hurts my feelings because I have bipolar disorder and it’s not funny. Please stop selling these shirts.”

The clerk sheepishly apologized, his eyes cast downward, and he tucked the shirt behind the counter.

We left the shop and my son’s posture changed, as if pride had filled his chest like a deflated balloon being filled with helium.

“You just fought stigma and I’m proud of you,” I told my son.

“Thanks, Mom, for not yelling at the guy,” he responded. “That would have been really embarrassing.”

Ann Jadin hired as NAMI FV’s Community Engagement Director

NAMI Fox Valley is excited to welcome Ann Jadin to its staff. Ann, who recently retired from Fox ValleyTechnical College, will serve as the agency’s new Community Engagement Director.

In her role, Ann will oversee and develop the agency’s NAMI Talks Speakers Bureau; co-facilitate the NEW Hope Peer Specialist training program and supervise the program’s interns; and oversee new program development and community collaborations.

Ann, who has a long history with NAMI Fox Valley, has been on the agency’s Board of Directors for the past two years; has served as a Family-to-Family Education Program instructor since 2009; and has been a team captain for several past NAMIWalks and last year’s Strike Out Stigma Bowl-a-Thon.

“I’m going to be right where my heart wants to be,” said Ann. “NAMI Fox Valley helped me through a family crisis over six years ago when my husband was diagnosed with Bipolar II. Both the Peer-to-Peer and Family-to-Family programs provided hope for us just when we needed it. NAMI Fox Valley has been key to my husband’s recovery and since then I’ve always wanted to give back.”

Ann retired from FVTC in May after serving nearly 18 years as an instructor in the school’s Occupational Assistance Therapy Program. In recognition of her service, she was awarded the college’s H. Victor Baldi Excellence in Instruction Award in May. Prior to joining FVTC, Ann, who is a Certified in Biofeedback Therapist, worked as an occupational therapist at St. Elizabeth Hospital, Theda Clark Regional Center and in a private practice medical clinic for a chronic pain rehabilitation program.

Ann earned her bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from the University of Wisconsin- Madison, a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Wisconsin- Oshkosh, and a doctorate in educational leadership and organizational development from Nova Southeastern University, Florida.

Ann and her husband, Tom, who have been married more than 30 years, live in Appleton and have two grown children, Katie and Mark. They enjoy bike riding, gardening, and being involved in community advocacy related to mental illness, homelessness and LBGT issues.

Everyone at NAMI FV is thrilled to have Ann on board and is looking forward to her talents and expertise in teaching, program development and community engagement. Welcome Ann!

NAMI Fox Valley awarded $441,000 grant to launch Peer Run Respite Center

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” -  Eleanor Roosevelt

By Karen Iverson Riggers, Program & Development Director

karen_schillerNAMI Fox Valley is thrilled to have been selected as one of three sites in Wisconsin to receive state funding to develop and open a Peer Run Respite Center for mental health consumers. As part of his package of mental health initiatives, Gov. Scott Walker approved more than $2 million in state funds to create the centers, a first-of-its-kind program in the state.

When we received our grant award letter last week, we were overjoyed. NAMI Fox Valley will receive $441,666 to develop and open a center, which will offer short-stay respite in a homelike environment for people with mental illness. A lot of hard work, planning and dreaming had brought us to that day.

Flash back seven years ago when my family and I began our journey with our NAMI Fox Valley family. One of the first people I had the honor and privilege meeting at the agency was Paula Verrett (now our full-time Recovery Specialist). Paula is one of my recovery role models and one of the first people who showed me that living well with mental illness IS possible – not just surviving, but thriving. Both of us are big dreamers and I remember a conversation we had while sitting at the conference table at our old Sixth Street office as we dreamed out loud about what treatment could look like in our community.

Paula had already started a draft (complete with floor plans) of what this would look like – space for informal and formal support, a tranquility room with a fountain, an art room, wellness space, maybe massages, and on and on. This “seed” of a dream seemed like a pipe dream at that time – something that we probably wouldn’t see in our lifetime in our community or state. In both of our journeys through the mental health system, we had experienced challenges and triumphs, and we held hope for a better future. We believed firmly that our broken and fragmented mental health system had both a practical and moral imperative to design and deliver evidence-based integrated and holistic services to those in need.   So we dreamed up a place that would foster wellness, healing, support and hope. And instead of a staff of uniformed nurses in a cold, institutional setting, we imagined a warm, homelike environment with a staff of people like ourselves – people living well in recovery from mental illness who were trained, and eager, to make the journey easier for others.

Fast forward to 2013.  The Wisconsin Legislature began a thoughtful approach of how to improve mental health services in the state. Paula testified at one of the hearings and I provided written input.  Peer Run Respite Centers, which have been successful in several other states, entered the conversation as lawmakers committed to invest $29 million in mental health.  The state formed a Peer Run Respite Advisory Committee, which we were invited to join. The committee researched and made recommendations on the program framework and best-practice elements.  Then in April, the state announced “requests for proposals,” with more than $2 million earmarked to start three regional Peer Run Respites in Wisconsin.

Elsewhere in the country, Peer Run Respites have delivered impressive outcomes in reducing hospitalizations and crisis and improving the quality of life for guests who utilize the services. Our “house” will be staffed completely by peers, many of whom will be Certified Peer Specialists by the state of Wisconsin. These peer companions will offer support, guidance, resources and HOPE to guests at the respite center. Peer Run Respite serves as a supportive alternative to hospitalization for people experiencing a time when they need more intensive support. The goals of Peer Run Respite are:

  1. Promote self-directed recovery through recovery-oriented peer support.
  2. Provide a safe, stable and supportive environment open 24 hours/day 7 days/week.
  3. Provide resources and linkages to the community.
  4. Improve outcomes and quality of life for peers utilizing Peer Run Respite.

In addition to NAMI Fox Valley, the other two recipients are Grassroots Empowerment Project, who will be starting a respite in western Wisconsin, and SOAR Case Management Services, who will be starting a respite in the Madison area. We are excited to work with the state of Wisconsin to develop this new resource in our state! (By the way, the program coordinator is Faith Boersma, Consumer Affairs Coordinator with the state’s Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, who used to be a very active NAMI Fox Valley volunteer!)

We would like to express our sincere appreciation to many of our community partners who enthusiastically supported our application – we received 28 letters of support! We are looking forward to working with our community partners and our NAMI Fox Valley participants and friends to bring this dream to reality! We plan to open the center in 2015.

I feel so privileged and honored to be able to help make this a reality for the many in our community and northeast Wisconsin who will benefit from this resource. If you’re interested in getting involved with Peer Run Respite in our community, please contact us! We will be forming a Peer Run Respite Advisory Board, looking for volunteers and resources and more.

This truly is a dream come true for Paula and me. This will be the place both of us wished we could have had when we were in some of our darkest hours. A place of hope, healing, compassion, caring and empowerment that supports individuals in their recovery in a respectful and real way – a place that will soon be reality!

Gov. Scott Walker attends Mental Health Awareness Month kickoff

Mental health supporters gather to ‘stand up against stigma.’

Gov. Scott Walker’s sons have had their share of sports injuries, his wife Tonette lives with Type 1 diabetes, and his dad suffered from depression after he retired as a minister.


Amanda Matthews, executive director of the N.E.W. Mental Health Connection, displays the Mental Health Awareness Month proclamation presented by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

“I share that because in each of those cases, that’s part of our health and well-being,” said Walker, who shared his personal story at the second-annual Mental Health Awareness Month Kickoff in Appleton on May 1. “(Mental health) is part of our health and why last year, working with folks here and across the state, we put more resources – $28.9 million, the most we’ve put in 30 years, into mental health services.”

Walker was joined by state and local leaders, mental health supporters and community members who gathered at Riverview Gardens to share their stories and commitment to fight stigma and improve mental health services and supports in the community and beyond.

“I received my technical diagnosis in a mental hospital after I had experienced my first, full-blown, panic attack the day before my 20th birthday,” Lawrence University student Anastasia Skliarova told the crowd of more than 150 gathered for the event.

Anastasia went on to describe her recovery journey back from debilitating anxiety and depression and how she has reclaimed her life with treatment and support from others.


Anastasia Skliarova, a Lawrence University student, shares her story with local media.

“If we are to be supportive, compassionate human beings, we must offer respect and understanding, unconditionally, to all who are struggling,” she added. “We must find the connection between those around us and ourselves, for we have all experienced pain. We must show that we care and that we are willing to listen, because asking for help can be the scariest thing in the world, and by offering help and support, you might very well become the spark for a person’s recovery.”

Gov. Walker applauded Ms. Skliarova and the other presenters for speaking out in support of those affected by mental illness.

“Your testimonies today are a great reminder of a moral imperative to break the stigma of mental illness,” Walker said. “I would like to add that practically, it’s also an economic imperative. When we have people suffering from mental illness who have yet to get the treatment they need, those people are sitting on the sidelines and are not engaged in our workforce.

“We need to have everyone who is able – or wants to work – be able to work, and part of that is making sure that people who mental health treatment or assistance are able to get it.”

Mike Veny, a New York-native, professional drummer and mental health consumer, made a special appearance at the kick-off event. Veny, a nationally known mental health speaker, was in town to give a keynote address at the NAMI Wisconsin 2014 state conference held May 2-3 at the Radisson Paper Valley.

As Veny discussed the stigma surrounding mental illness, he referenced a cartoon he had seen recently on Facebook.

“It was kind of like an old comic book-style cartoon, and in box number one, it said if you have a cold people will comment ‘feel better,’” he said.  ”In box number two, it said if you break your arm, people will sign your cast. In Box three, it said if you go to the hospital, people will come visit you, give you cards and you might even get a stuffed animal. In box number four, it said if people find out you have mental health issues, they need to get far away from you.

“We as a society are very uncomfortable talking about things above the neck. You’ll see celebrities put their vasectomies online, but we are afraid to talk about mental health issues.”

Veny went on to encourage the crowd to do three things “to continue to transform stigma into strength.”

I encourage you to take care of yourself, to keep mental health in the conversation when you leave here today and look for teachable moments,” he said.

Erin Davisson, WFRV TV news anchor, emceed the hour-long program which also included comments from Sue Jungen of Affinity Behavioral Health; Jean DeKeyser of ThedaCare Behavioral Health; Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna; Wilson Middle School Principal John Magas; Dr. Doug Moard, a family physician; and a video address by Congressman Reid Ribble.

Join us May 1 to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month!

Stand Up Against Stigma

NAMI Fox Valley is excited to partner again this year with the N.E.W. Mental Health Connection and other local agencies to celebrate May Mental Health Awareness Month. This year’s kickoff will be held 9 to 11 a.m., Thursday, May 1, at Riverview Gardens, 1101 S. Oneida St., Appleton.

Join Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, WFRV TV news anchor Erin Davisson, community leaders and mental health supporters for a one-hour program, from 10 to 11 a.m., when we will join together to stand up against stigma and pledge to do more for the 1 in 4 in our community affected by mental illness. A mental health resource fair will be held from 9 to 10 a.m., prior to the program.

We will be handing out green mental health awareness ribbons again this year at the event, to be worn throughout the month of May. And be sure to dress in GREEN on May 2, our GO GREEN DAY!

May 8 Documentary Screening: A Sister’s Call

 As part of the month’s awareness activities, NAMI Fox Valley and the Fox Valley Sibling Support Network will host a showing of “A Sister’s Call,” a documentary by Rebecca Schaper and Kyle Tekiela that chronicles Rebecca’s efforts to find her missing brother, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, and help restore his life. The screening will be held 6 p.m., Thursday, May 8 at the Appleton Public Library.

May 31 Strike Out Stigma with the T-Rats

TRats Strike Out Stigma 2013We will also “Strike Out Stigma” with the Timber Rattlers again this year. Be sure to reserve Saturday, May 31 for a night out at the ball park with the T-Rats and your NAMI friends. Join us for a tailgate prior to the game. Ticket sales benefit the programs and services of NAMI Fox Valley. Come volunteer to help at the tailgate, sell tickets or help us make and distribute green awareness ribbons. Together, we can raise awareness and strike out stigma!

Click here for a complete listing of May Mental Health Awareness Month activities in our community.

From dream to reality

Appleton Downtown, Inc. honors Flight to Building Opportunities

Harriet Redman (Fox Valley Sibling Support Network), Maria Turner (CASA of the Fox Cities), Sonia Barham (The Arc Fox Cities), Beth Clay (NAMI Fox Valley), and Mary Sullivan (Prevent Suicide Fox Cities) proudly display the ADI President's Award 2014.

Harriet Redman (Fox Valley Sibling Support Network), Maria Turner (CASA of the Fox Cities), Sonia Barham (The Arc Fox Cities), Beth Clay (NAMI Fox Valley), and Mary Sullivan (Prevent Suicide Fox Cities) proudly display the ADI President’s Award 2014.

About two years ago, Beth Clay, executive director of NAMI Fox Valley, and Beth Hoffman, The Arc Fox Cities’ former executive director, got to talking and realized they shared a similar dream.  Each agency had outgrown its small, cramped building and needed a new home to accommodate their growing programs, services, and staff.

That dream turned into a fundraising campaign known as The Flight to Building Opportunities, and was led by an amazing group of public servants who affectionately became known as The Flight Crew.  Led by Hoffman and Joe Troy, former vice president of NAMI FV’s board, more than a dozen Flight Crew members accomplished an amazing feat. They raised more than $1 million to turn that dream into reality.

Fast forward to present day. The Arc Fox Cities and NAMI Fox Valley are now co-owners of their  beautiful and spacious new home at 211 E. Franklin St., Appleton.  We also rent space to other nonprofits. The Fox Valley Sibling Support Network, Prevent Suicide Fox Cities, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of the Fox Cities, and the Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin-Fox Cities, have also moved into the building.

211 E. Franklin Street, Appleton, is now home to six nonprofit agencies.

211 E. Franklin Street, Appleton, is now home to six nonprofit agencies.

Collectively, we have created a downtown nonprofit park, connected by a common theme within our missions: Each agency is committed to serving vulnerable, marginalized and underserved people in our community. We are all agencies of  “people helping people,” operating on tight budgets and the generosity of volunteers, supporters and donors.  By sharing a building and other resources, we can now stretch our dollars even further for programs and support services.

So what a surprise it was when Appleton Downtown, Inc. (ADI) paid tribute to its new neighbors (us, the nonprofits) by bestowing the The Flight to Building Opportunities with one of its top honors: its annual President’s Award.

On behalf of the Flight Crew, Beth Clay and Sonia Barham, current executive director of The Arc, accepted the award (to a standing ovation!) at the ADI annual Dinner & Awards Celebration held March 12 at the Raddison Paper Valley. Thank you, ADI, for this special honor and such a warm welcome to the downtown community.

Thank you, also, to the nearly 400 community donors – individuals, families, corporations, foundations and participants, for believing in our dream. With donations ranging from $2.11 to $100,211, the collective power of each and every gift has created new opportunities, strengthened our community, and will touch countless lives – today, tomorrow and well into the future.

NAMI FV welcomes three new staff members

NAMI Fox Valley is excited to introduce three new employees to its staff. Ryan Kust has been hired as a peer advocate, bringing the total number of peer advocates at the agency to four. Tracy Aliota, a longtime school counselor, meanwhile, has been hired as the agency’s community outreach  coordinator. And finally, Megan McLachlan, who brings a wealth of nonprofit experience, is succeeding Jill Mitchler as the agency’s new volunteer coordinator. We are thrilled to have them all on our team!

Ryan KustRyan Kust, Peer Advocate 

Ryan, who in January became a Wisconsin Certified Peer Specialist, has been hired as a peer advocate for the agency. In his role, Ryan will serve as an advocate and support person for individuals living with mental illness, offering encouragement, guidance and resources to support recovery.

Since joining NAMI Fox Valley in 2012, Ryan has served as a volunteer, an In Our Own Voice presenter, support group facilitator and recently was trained as a REAP facilitator and Peer-to-Peer mentor. As a precursor to being hired in his new role, Ryan recently finished a 100-hour internship with the agency as part of his peer specialist certification requirements.

Ryan credits NAMI Fox Valley with making his recovery journey easier and more meaningful. “There is no doubt that my life would not have the focus and stability I currently enjoy without the warmth, understanding and guidance that the wonderful folks at NAMI Fox Valley have shown me,” Ryan said. “Words can’t describe my appreciation for the opportunity to hopefully give back some of what I have received from the NAMI Fox Valley family.”

Ryan grew up in the Black Creek area and currently lives in Appleton. He enjoys music, fishing, being  outdoors, and spending time with family and friends. The love of his life will forever be his daughter Samantha.

Tracy AliotaTracy Aliota, Community Outreach Coordinator 

Tracy, who was recently trained as one of our new Teen Support Group facilitators, joined us in mid-February as our new Community Outreach Coordinator. She brings with her many years of experience in the field of school-age mental health and is a Wisconsin certified Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor.

Tracy is an Appleton native and has 13 years experience working as a school counselor in Northeast Wisconsin schools. She has deep connections in the Valley that will benefit our affiliate and increase our capacity for new and continuing collaboration and partnership.

I’m so excited to work at NAMI and have the opportunity to reach more people and help break the stigma of mental illness,” said Tracy. Tracy and her husband, Matthew, have three sons, ages 7, 8 and 10, who keep them very busy.

Megan McLachlanMegan McLachlan, Volunteer Coordinator 

Megan comes to NAMI Fox Valley from the Parent Connection program of Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin, where she served as the Family Wellness Coordinator for the past seven years. Megan has coordinated volunteer presenters and facilitators for the local Topics to Increase Parenting Skills community education program and is well known in the Valley for the quality of the programming she provides.

Megan and her family have also lived in South Carolina, where she worked as a high school teacher, and in Washington state, where she coordinated family and parent education through a Family Resource Center and served as a Family Services Advocate.

Megan is looking forward to bringing her experience and community connections to her new role. ”I strongly believe in the mission of NAMI Fox Valley,” she said. ”As a volunteer and community member I have seen what a dynamic and exciting place it is and I’m thrilled to be part of it.” Megan and her husband, Tom, and their two teenage sons enjoying spending time at their cabin in Sturgeon Bay.

The year in review: A trip down memory lane

So many exciting things happened at NAMI Fox Valley in 2013! As we look ahead to 2014, we thought we would also take stock of all the great things that took place last year.

January 2013 We welcomed John Rose to john-tamra-mugsour staff as a Peer Advocate and our In Our Own Voice Program Coordinator. Meanwhile, Tamra Retlick joined our Board of Directors. Thanks John and Tamra for all the passion, dedication and talent you have brought to NAMI Fox Valley!

February 2013 NAMI Fox Valley staff and board members worked to revise the agency’s mission and vision as the following:

Our Mission: NAMI Fox Valley works to support and empower everyone touched by mental illness. We commit to eliminate stigma and nurture recovery through education, support, advocacy and outreach.

Our Vision: We envision a community, free of stigma, that supports and promotes mental health and recovery.

March 2013 We launched our new Mood Disorders Support Group, which meets from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month. Did you know that all of our support groups are led by trained facilitators who themselves are living well with mental illness?

April 2013 NAMI Fox Valley rolled three new community presentations, known as the 101s:

NAMI Fox Valley 101: This 20-minute presentation offers an overview of the work we do to provide essential education, support, outreach and advocacy programs in the community.

Mental Illness 101: This informative, 50-minute presentation provides an overview of mental illness and its impact; treatment and recovery; the adverse effects of stigma; the importance of advocacy; and NAMI Fox Valley’s role in the community to educate, support and empower those affected by mental illness.

Recovery 101: This 30-minute workshop provides information on the fundamentals of recovery and how NAMI Fox Valley puts them into practice in our programs and services.

May 2013 NAMI Fox Valley and The Arc Fox Cities211-kite launched the public Flight to Building Opportunities Flight Kite campaign to raise $999,211 for the agencies’ new home at 211 E. Franklin St., Appleton. Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin donated $100,211 toward the project! The public got a sneak peak of our new home at a May 8 open house.

stand-up-facebook-logoNAMI Fox Valley, in partnership with the Northeast Wisconsin Mental Health Connection and other community agencies, celebrated May Mental Health Awareness Month with a May 1 kickoff at Riverview Gardens and a month’s worth of awareness activities. nami-trats-logo-optWe finished off the month with the May 31 Strike Out Stigma baseball game with the Timber                                           Rattlers.

211-building-nami-signJune 2013 Home sweet home! After months of planning, purging, and packing, we moved into our new office space on the main floor of  211 E. Franklin St. Our volunteers rocked! They helped us move, unpack and get settled without us hardly skipping a beat. A team of volunteers even beautified the grounds with a landscape makeover.

July 2013 More than 200 NAMI friends, families and consumers turned out for the annual summer picnic hosted by NAMI Fox Valley, Friendship Place and the Outreach Center. Held July 22 at Pierce Park in Appleton, we enjoyed great food, great friendship, and a hot, sunny summer evening.

August 2013 We honored our 2012/2013 Award Recipients at our Aug. 6 Awards Ceremony at the Grand Meridian. In case you missed it, click here to read about our award winners. We also kicked off our first-ever Strike Out Stigma Bowl-a-Thon at the event.

September 2013 NAMI Fox Valley rolled out its new Anxiety Disorders Support Group, which meets from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month. We now offer nine different support groups!

-bowlathon-thankyou-signOctober 2013 We held our first Strike Out Stigma Bowl-a-Thon on Saturday, Oct. 5 at the Super Bowl in Appleton, raising $80,000 for our agency! Thanks to the 42 bowling teams, 400 bowlers, two dozen sponsors and nearly 60 volunteers for helping us exceed our goal and making the event such a success!

ending_the_silenceNovember 2013 NAMI Fox Valley proudly presented its new outreach program Ending the Silence to more than 1,500 students at Hortonville, Kaukauna, Neenah and Seymour high schools. The program teaches teens the basic signs and symptoms of mental illness, presents personal stories and provides resource materials for students. We also expanded our Teen Support Group to two new locations:  at CHAPS in Kaukauna and at Catalpa Health in Appleton. The original Teen Support Group at Harmony Cafe in Appleton, meanwhile, is still going strong!

The Flight Building Campaign received a major gift: Thrivent Financial for Lutherans announced a $100,000 donation! Thank you Thrivent!!!

December 2013 NAMI Fox Valley welcomed Ryan Kustryan-mug-optimized as a Peer Advocate Intern. Ryan recently completed his training to become a certified peer specialist and is completing his internship hours. We are thrilled to have him with us!

Q: What is a peer specialist?
A: A certified peer specialist is someone who has self-identified as having received or is receiving mental health services in personal recovery and has undergone certification training on how to assist others in recovery. A peer specialist serves a resource and support person to help individuals regain control over their lives and own recovery process. NAMI Fox Valley is proud to have three certified peer specialists on staff including Karen Schiller, Paula Verrett and John Rose.

What an awesome year! We are looking forward to 2014 and all the exciting work we have planned to empower and support those in our community affected by mental illness!

2013: A year of community collaborations around mental health

Beth ClayBy Beth Clay

Executive Director

What an exciting year this has been for NAMI Fox Valley! Demand for our programs and services continues to grow, along with NAMI Fox Valley’s profile in the Fox Cities as the community’s voice on mental illness. In the wake of tragic events, a community, state and national dialog has followed regarding our nation’s broken mental health system and what needs to be done to fix it.

NAMI Fox Valley is working hard to educate our community that treatment works, recovery is possible, and that we must work collectively to improve access to treatment, and break down barriers,  including stigma,  that prevent people from seeking help.

This year we have seen a growing momentum in our community around mental health and a collective call to action among stakeholders, partner agencies, mental health service providers and families to do more for one in four. There is a growing awareness in our community that addressing mental health problems is a basic human need.

There has been a ground swell of new mental health initiatives this year, and NAMI Fox Valley has been proud to sit at the table of many of them, offering our 30 years of experience breaking stigma, mental illness education expertise, and ensuring that the voices of people affected by mental illness are heard. We have found new community partners and expanded our relationships with non-traditional partners.  Through collaboration, we can reach more members of the community, reduce duplication, fill gaps and leverage shared resources to meet our community’s needs.

We are now receiving requests every day for training, presentations or program collaboration!  We are excited for the many diverse requests coming our way and are working to build capacity to take advantage of these opportunities.

Here are some of the exciting collaborations underway:

  • This year’s United Way Fox Cities campaign is focused on promoting and supporting the mental health of our community. The impact of untreated and mistreated mental illness on all sectors of our community was recognized in the most recent LIFE Study, and NAMI Fox Valley has been an active partner in this year’s campaign.
  • In collaboration with Common Ground, Samaritan Counseling and representatives from many faith communities, we are in the planning stages of developing a training and support program for clergy and faith leaders to support individuals and families affected by mental illness.
  • As a member of the N.E.W. (Northeast Wisconsin) Mental Health Connection, we are a partner in connecting community stakeholders and resources to improve the mental health of our community.  This membership organization of individuals and organizations was created after the community’s 2011 Mental Health Summit to address barriers to accessing and navigating mental health services. Initiatives include:
  1. No Wrong Door: This committee is working to create a system that gets individuals to the right place, at the right time for the right service through an online referral database and community training.
  2. 24/7 Crisis Task Force: This initiative brings law enforcement, county crisis, emergency departments, and mental health providers together to improve triage services and get people to the right level of care at the time they need it.
  3. Suicide initiative: This suicide prevention effort is looking at suicide in the Fox Cities from a public health approach as we seek to create the most efficient and effective system of care for the community.
  4. Support Primary Care Providers: This effort provides training and support to equip primary care providers to feel more comfortable diagnosing and treatment mental illnesses.
  • The Children’s Mental Health Initiative is working to create a system of care from prenatal to young adulthood that can support and promote mental health across the lifespan.
  • In support of the YMCA Fox Cities mission to build healthy spirits, minds and bodies, NAMI Fox Valley and the YMCA are working together on multiple initiatives to maximize resources through using the expertise of each agency.
  • Since the beginning of 2013, NAMI Fox Valley has provided community outreach presentations and trainings to more than 60 organizations, reaching more than 1,200 community members.

I remain so proud to play a part in an organization that is living its mission daily. Through the passion and dedication of staff, board, volunteers, families and consumers, NAMI Fox Valley is working to support and empower everyone touched by mental illness.

Thank you for being on this journey with us,


Thank you, everyone, for a successful Bowl-a-Thon!

Thank you!!! We did it!!!

Thank you to our sponsors, Team Captains, Bowlers and Volunteers!

NAMI Fox Valley’s first-ever Bowl-a-Thon, held Saturday, Oct. 5,  at the Super Bowl in Appleton was a rousing success and a whole lot of fun! We surpassed our $75,000 fundraising goal and are at $79,000 and still counting. We will continue to collect funds through the first week of November.

All told, 42 bowling teams, about 400 bowlers, two dozen sponsors and nearly 60 volunteers helped us raise funds, raise awareness and put on this amazing, family-friendly event for our community.

We would like to extend a special thank you to Walgreens, for being an event sponsor, supporter, and partner with NAMI Fox Valley! Throughout the month of September, a dozen local Walgreens stores raised funds for NAMI Fox Valley with a Strike Out Stigma bowling pin scannable. Walgreens manager Ron Hoffmeyer organized the fundraiser, where customers at the participating Walgreens stores were invited to purchase a paper bowling pin at each register for $1, $5 or $10 as a donation to NAMI Fox Valley.

Ron rocked the mic the day of the Bowl-a-Thon, serving as our event emcee. Ron also organized a large bowling team, and donated two large Walgreens gift baskets to the event’s Baskets of Hope silent auction/raffle. Walgreens also donated 5-by-7 photographs of the bowling teams to all the bowlers the day of the Bowl-a-Thon! Thank you Ron and Walgreens for all your support and helping make the event such a special day!

We’d also like to express our gratitude to 91.1 The Avenue and News Talk 1150 WHBY for their support. NAMI Fox Valley was the proud recipient of a Community Impact Grant from 91.1 The Ave., which included a public service announcement that was aired during the weeks leading up to the Bowl-a-Thon! Thank you, 91.1 The Ave., for helping us promote the event and expand our reach in the community.

News Talk 1150 WHBY, meanwhile, gave us lots of air time when NAMI Fox Valley’s own Karen Schiller was a guest at the station twice recently to discuss mental illness, NAMI Fox Valley’s mission and work in the community, as well as promote the Bowl-a-Thon.

Nearly 60 volunteers helped us put on the Bowl-a-Thon! Thanks, everyone, for all your hard work. From setup, registration, preparing snacks, sharing information about NAMI, taking event photos, cleanup and so much more, we couldn’t have put on the Bowl-a-Thon without our volunteers!

Thank you to all our Bowl-a-Thon sponsors for helping us meet and exceed our fundraising goal! Thank you for supporting us, believing in our mission, and joining us to improve the lives and empower those affected by mental illness!