Kids’ Minds Matter annual gala a success for advancing pediatric mental health

Southwest Florida advocates inspired to donate $951,000 to expand access to care

FORT MYERS, Fla. (March 11, 2022) – The 6th Annual Kids’ Minds Matter Gala: Navigating the Journey took place March 9 at the Innovation Hotel in Naples. Combined with pre-event gatherings of mental health advocates, the event inspired long-time supporters as well as significant contributions from new donors to raise more than $951,000.

Kids’ Minds Matter, an initiative of Lee Health and Golisano Children’s Hospital, is focused on raising awareness and funds to ensure children receive the right care at the right place and time, making the full continuum of mental and behavioral health services available in the region. These vital funds will fuel programs to expand access to pediatric mental health support in Lee, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Charlotte Counties.

“When we started in 2016, Golisano Children’s Hospital was treating only a limited number of mental and behavioral health patients,” said Dr. Emad Salman, regional medical officer, Golisano Children’s Hospital. “We knew that more needed to happen, and that philanthropy was the key. We are grateful for our passionate supporters who have enabled tremendous growth and wonderful progress, and we look forward to supporting additional improvements we couldn’t have imagined six years ago.”

The first portion of the event focused on programs and services made possible by philanthropy:

  • Educating the Community
    • Adding full-time care navigators throughout Southwest Florida, including one in the emergency department at Golisano Children’s Hospital, one at Healthcare Network, and six inside the Lee and Collier school districts who are working with students and their families struggling the most.
  • Caring for Patients at Golisano Children’s Hospital
    • Since 2017, the number of visits with Golisano providers (psychologists, mental health counselors, social workers, etc.) has grown from 7,136 to nearly 24,000.
    • The time to get an appointment with one of our counselors has dropped from 12 months to 2 months.
    • The number of providers through Golisano has grown 500%.
  • Advocating through Partnerships
    • Bringing together 35 agencies to host a regional Mental Health Fair annually for a full day of collaboration.
    • Building community programs, like Normal Is Overrated, which is led entirely by students to help reduce the stigma associated with mental health.
    • Partnering with Visuality, a youth group working with LGBTQ+ students.
    • Supporting dozens of community activities that make even the smallest dent in helping children with issues – alcohol, drugs, depression, anxiety, suicidality, etc.
  • Expanding Access and Clinical Care
    • Launching construction and partnership plans to add three new clinics across our community in Bonita Springs, Lehigh Acres and Cape Coral.
    • Currently recruiting 16 new psychologists.
    • Opening a new pediatric behavioral health office at the Bonita Health Center.

The main program educated attendees on the continuing and rising need to increase access for children and their families who are desperate for lifesaving care and to restore quality of life to their homes. The sole fundraising driver of the night was a live Fund a Need, with every dollar to be matched by The Wasie Foundation. The $1 million matching grant announced late last year, with additional help from the community, will help to expand support for pediatric mental and behavioral health, including establishing a new Behavioral Health Clinic at the Bonita Health Center to provide space for five child psychologists and a testing center.

The highlight of the evening was student advocate and high school senior Damini Parkhi who was recognized with a new award for work she has done in the community. The Courtnage Courage in Our Community Award was created in honor of Larry and Kathy Courtnage, early investors in Kids’ Minds Matter and recognizes a member of the community who has overcome odds to positively affect others. Parkhi has used her own story to build awareness, educate the community and give others who are struggling a voice, and has been seen over the last two years at events such as Normal Is Overrated and Unmasking the Epidemic, as well participating in conversations on local panels and podcasts.

Sponsors of the event included presenting sponsor FineMark National Bank & Trust; Leading sponsors Jill Kushner, LeeSar Cooperative Services of Florida Inc., Audi Fort Myers and Audi Naples, Gillian Draper, Fountain 33 Foundation and Stock Development. Special thank you to J.P. Morgan and Rick Gallo Auctioneer.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, attendance at Arthrex’s Innovation Hotel in Naples was limited. The Innovation Hotel is treated by Synexis Dry Hydrogen Peroxide continuously to ward of viruses, contaminants and airborne pathogens.

To learn more about Kids’ Minds Matter, get resources for help or to become an advocate, visit KidsMindsMatter.com.

About Kids’ Minds Matter

Founded in 2016 by Susan Goldy and Scott Spiezle, Kids’ Minds Matter is a unified movement in Southwest Florida dedicated to advancing pediatric mental and behavioral health services. By developing clinical pathways to screen and treat patients, enhancing public awareness through education, and lobbying for systemic change and sustainable funding, Kids’ Minds Matter aims to align mental health providers, local agencies, the judicial system, law enforcement, schools and faith-based organizations. Kids’ Minds Matter is managed through the Lee Health Foundation. Please visit KidsMindsMatter.com or call 239-343-6950 for more information.

About Golisano Children’s Hospital

Established in 1994, Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida has been named a “Top Hospital” by The Leapfrog Group for the past three years. It is the only recognized children’s hospital between Tampa and Miami. Lee Health opened the new 128-bed Golisano Children’s Hospital in May 2017, relocating the children’s hospital from the adjacent HealthPark Medical Center. It includes comprehensive pediatric services including a 24-hour pediatric emergency department, hematology-oncology unit, milk lab, Regional Perinatal Intensive Care Center, and Level II and Level III NICU with 64 private rooms. Golisano Children’s Hospital is proud to have been named Soliant’s 2018 Most Beautiful Hospital in the U.S., a recognition determined by popular vote. For more information, visit GolisanoChildrensSWFL.org.

About Lee Health Foundation

Lee Health Foundation raises philanthropic dollars on behalf of Lee Health, including Cape Coral Hospital, Gulf Coast Medical Center, HealthPark Medical Center, Lee Memorial Hospital and Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. The Foundation provides financial support for many service areas including the Regional Cancer Center, Lee Health – Coconut Point, The Rehabilitation Hospital, Shipley Cardiothoracic Center, Community Health Clinics and Golisano Children’s Hospital Specialty Clinics in both Port Charlotte and Naples. Over the past two years, the Foundation has distributed more than $53 million to Lee Health to support its lifesaving mission. Please visit LeeHealthFoundation.org or call (239) 343-6950 for more information.

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Media Contacts:

Holly Boldrin, APR, CPRC, Priority Marketing, Holly@PriorityMarketing.com, 239-267-2638 or 239-887-9335 (cell)

Tiffany Whitaker, APR, Lee Health Foundation, Tiffany.Whitaker@LeeHealth.org, (239) 343-6105

Kids' Minds Matter logo reverse white on transparent background KMM
Founded in 2016, Kids’ Minds Matter is a unified movement in Southwest Florida dedicated to advancing pediatric mental and behavioral health services. By developing clinical pathways to screen and treat patients, enhancing public awareness through education, and lobbying for systemic change and sustainable funding, Kids’ Minds Matter aims to align mental health providers, local agencies, the judicial system, law enforcement, schools and faith-based organizations. Kids’ Minds Matter is managed through the Lee Health Foundation.

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