What Do We All Have in Common? Lessons (and Gratitude) from Creative Advocacy

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What Do We All Have in Common? Lessons (and Gratitude) from Creative Advocacy

Wow. What a night!

On Saturday, over 220 people joined us at SOMArts Cultural Center in San Francisco for our Creative Advocacy event. We couldn’t feel more honored to have such a thoughtful, dedicated, and energetic community. Thanks to you, and the generous support of our sponsors, we raised over $23,000 to fund advocacy that improves lives. But something even BIGGER happened.

We came together, as a community, to create change. Change that means young people and their families have access to the quality mental healthcare they need and deserve. And for that, we’re truly thankful, because no one person or organization can do it alone.

As our honoree Kevin Hines said: “What do we all have in common? None of us simply speak out, hope for, or merely wish for change. We mobilize, we join like minded causes, we lay down our egos, and we all work tirelessly day and night to create change.”

So THANK YOU, from all of us at Young Minds Advocacy, for your time, generosity, and zeal. For those of you who couldn’t join us, here are some other highlights from the event:

Over 100 Youth Art Submissions

The walls of SOMArts were brimming with over 100 pieces of art, submitted by local youth, depicting their mental health journeys. While the art hung silently, its collective message roared: “Nothing about us, without us!”

One of my favorite pieces (and it was hard to pick) was by a young woman named Natalie. Her piece, entitled “Limited,” “incorporated paper, mixed media, and language…to portray

[her] emotions and experiences when [she] had OCD and an eating disorder.” “Limited” is a quilt made of over 1,000 sugar packets to “show the audience how burdening and meticulous eating disorders are.”

We are so thankful to all of the courageous young artists like Natalie, who defied stigma and shared their stories. The collection was also made possible thanks to the contributions of our partners Youth Speaks Out, Youth In Mind, and our volunteer curator Monet Oganesian.


2016 Awardees Lead the Charge

At Creative Advocacy, Young Minds honored five mental health advocates who’ve inspired us: Eric Wagoner, Chloe Sorensen, the PEERS TAY Leadership Team, Rochelle Trochtenberg, and Kevin Hines. Each of them have created innovative ways to take on big challenges, in their own lives, and in their communities. They’re survivors–resilient in the face of adversity, and driven to make a difference in any way they can. Our guests witnessed this at the event when each honoree took the stage to share their story, their work, and why mental health matters to them.

Chloe Sorensen and Patrick Gardner, YM President. Photo credit: Jeremiah McWright

Chloe Sorensen, Young Leader Awardee and Patrick Gardner, YM President. Photo credit: Jeremiah McWright

Chloe, one of our “Young Leader” awardees, said something that really stuck with me: “It’s time we start listening to our students, and empower them rather than silence them. Although we may be young, I can assure you that age does not necessarily correlate with experience. For example, I’m 17. I am 17-years-old and I need multiple hands to count the number of people I have lost to suicide.”

She’s right. Too many of our young people are hurting, and we often discount their experiences–even as we try to support them. We talk and talk, when we should be listening. But not anymore.

As Creative Advocacy showed, there’s a strong community of youth, parents, teachers, clinicians, advocates, and policymakers RIGHT HERE, in our own back yards, that wants to stir things up. A community that wants to improve the lives of youth and families by honoring their voices and experiences. One that knows mental health matters, especially for young people, and wants to do whatever it takes to make quality care accessible to those in need.

It’s a community I feel so thankful to be a part of, and I can’t wait to see what we accomplish together.


The event wouldn’t have been possible without our interns, Heather Matheson and Jeremiah McWright, and our event volunteers. We also want to give a BIG shout out to Union Pacific, the local band that kept us grooving all night, and local businesses Ritual Coffee and Fort Point Brewery for the refreshments. And of course, none of this would have been possible without the support of our sponsors: The Zellerbach Family Foundation, California Alliance of Children and Family Agencies, Seneca Family of Agencies, and West Coast Children Clinic.

More photos and highlights from the event can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and InstagramPhoto credits: Jeremiah McWright (#1-3) and Megan Pham (#4).

Please help us build on the momentum of the event by donating to Young Minds Advocacy today.

About the Author:

Annabelle Gardner
Annabelle Gardner is the director of communications at Young Minds and editor in chief of our blog, Hear Me Out. She believes storytelling is a powerful tool for social change.