The Child Mind Institute held its sixth annual Child Advocacy Award Dinner at Cipriani 42 Street on December 9th, and it was an evening of high emotion and high spirits that raised $6.85 million dollars.
Fifteen-year-old Jackie Rodriguez set the tone with a compelling story about her battle with crippling anxiety, and the Child Mind Institute team that stepped in after a series of other clinicians who just wrote prescriptions—and essentially washed their hands of her. “One doctor actually said, ‘There’s nothing I can do for you,'” she recalled. She was 13 years old.
By the time Jackie got to the Child Mind Institute, she said, “I honestly didn’t think I could get better.” But the team that helped her work through her anxiety with behavioral therapy made it clear from the outset that “we’re in this together. We’re not gonna stop until you’re okay.”
Katie Couric, the evening’s host, applauded the “poised and articulate” Jackie for being a great example to other teenagers. “The message is that anyone with any kind of mental illness or emotional challenge should know they’re never alone,” said Couric. “And they should never be ashamed about what they’re going through.”
Child Mind Institute president Dr. Harold Koplewicz picked up on the theme of adults essentially telling children with mental health issues that they’re out of luck.
“I want you to join me in refusing to accept ‘there’s nothing I can do’ as an answer,” Dr. Koplewicz said to the audience of more than 600. “Help us make this the political issue it is, and give a voice to all of the families who struggle.”
The evening’s honorees were Dr. John Rubenstein, professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, who received the 2016 Child Mind Institute Distinguished Scientist Award, and Andreas C. Dracopoulos, director and co-president of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, who accepted the Child Advocacy Award.
Board member Mike Fascitelli applauded Dracopoulos for being an early and avid supporter of the Child Mind Institute’s neuroscience research. Most recently his foundation made a $1 million gift in support of the Healthy Brain Network, specifically for the Mobile Research Vehicle, which was parked outside during the dinner.
“The vehicle is a model for research and mental health care delivery,” Fascitelli said, “and through his support, Andreas will continue to have a significant impact on our understanding of children’s mental health for many years to come.”
In accepting the award, Dracopoulos explained that the well-being of children is a focal point of his foundation’s grant-making efforts, and that the Child Mind Institute’s efforts are leading towards concrete results in that area. “The Healthy Brain Network will provide necessary data to help accelerate the identification of biological markers of mental illness in children,” he said, “and the development of objective clinical tools for better diagnosis and treatment.”
The evening ended with a lively auction for the Child Mind Institute’s financial aid program, led by Lydia Fenet of Christie’s, with a surprise assist from Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall and his wife, Michi, who encouraged spirited bidding for the opportunity to invite friends to their box for a New York Jets game.
“Doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, rich or poor,” Brandon Marshall concluded, “mental health affects all of us.”