FIRST ANNUAL LOS ANGELES PERINATAL MENTAL HEALTH TASK FORCE “SPEAK UP WHEN YOU’RE DOWN” FUNDRAISING GALA A SOLID SUCCESS!

Passion and commitment to the recognition that perinatal depression and related mood disorders deserve urgent attention and action resulted in a sold out crowd of 150 attendees at  the First Annual “Speak Up When You’re Down” silent auction and dinner gala hosted by the Los Angeles Perinatal Mental Health Task Force (the “Task Force”). The November 21, 2010 event was held at acclaimed Chef Michael Shafer’s Depot Restaurant in Torrance, CA.  The Task Force so greatly appreciates Chef Shafer’s delectable appetizers , entrees, dessert and the overall intimate ambience and warmth that he created. Ninety percent of all attendees personally knew one of the Task Force members and reflected a growing number of supporters whose compassion is helping to bring incredible momentum and action to address perinatal depression and related mood disorders.

The Task Force, a project of 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor Community Partners, is a volunteer network whose mission is to remove barriers to prevention, screening and treatment of prenatal and postpartum depression in Los Angeles County. Task Force members present at the fundraiser included: Diana Lynn Barnes, Carol Berkowitz, Paula Binner, Cindy Chow, Cathy Dore, Tonya Gorham, Mary Hammond, Ellie Berkowitz Handler, Cynthia Harding, Deborah Johnson-Hayes, Gabrielle Kaufman, Stephanie Morales, Lisa Osborn, Erika Reyes, Nakeisha Robinson, Merrill Sparago, Jeanette Valentine, Penny White, Kimberly Wong and Task Force Director Caron Post. Many of the Task Force members in attendance have been involved since the Task Force formed in February 2007. Other Task Force members supporting the event who were not able to attend include Emily Dossett, Julie Elginer, Marie Poulsen, and Lynn Yonekura. Together, the Task Force has become a group dedicated to a larger vision and cause.

Perinatal depression, also known as maternal depression, encompasses a range of mood disorders that can affect a woman during pregnancy and around the time of birth.  Of the approximately 150,000 live births occurring in Los Angeles County each year, over 22,000 women experience clinical perinatal depression.  Left untreated, maternal depression is linked to detrimental outcomes in the development of the fetus, newborn and developing child.

“As a survivor of severe postpartum depression, I know firsthand that accessing informed and culturally competent mental health intervention is critical for pregnant and recent moms,” said Kimberly Wong, founder and chair of the Task Force.  “Interventions can take many forms, including therapy and community support services, participation in support groups and the possibility of medication.  Our hope was that this night would not only raise financial support for our work, but that it would also raise awareness of this mental health epidemic so that women who are suffering no longer do so in silence.”

With hearts of hope, steely determination, and a scrappy no-holds- barred attitude, the Task Force Fundraiser Planning Committee starting with Artistic Director and Task Force member Ellie Berkowitz Handler brought the event to fruition. Ellie, who designed the Task Force’s Speak Up When You’re Down posters recognizing May as Perinatal Depression Awareness Month, also designed the event’s gorgeous invitations, evening program and silent auction catalog.  It was fitting that the Task Force presented Ellie Handler with the 2010 Perinatal Mental Health Champion Award. As a result of Ellie’s efforts, the Speak Up When You’re Down posters she designed were showcased in Sacramento at the press conference announcing the passage of a statewide resolution (ACR 105), which now declares the month of May Perinatal Depression Awareness Month. We are thankful to author Assembly Member Pedro Nava and the resolution’s sponsor, Julie Elginer on behalf of the Junior Leagues State Public Affairs Committee, with whom the Task Force worked directly to ensure passage. In addition, the posters were displayed in all county birthing hospitals throughout Los Angeles County during May 2010.

Kimberly Wong and Caron Post worked with a number of other volunteers whose commitment ensured the event’s success, namely Nicole Fonseca and Jennifer Lightner, who engaged vendors of all sorts to care about our cause and whose tireless efforts helped bring our silent auction items to over 60 diverse offerings. The Task Force extends thank yous as well to Paula Binner, Erika Reyes, Stephanie Morales and all of the South Bay Center for Counseling (SBCC) interns, and to all Task Force members who attended and who donated silent auction items.

Sponsor of the November 2010 Gala

The Task Force expresses gratitude to event sponsor California Solar Innovations (www.csigreenliving.com), who serves solar “sunny side up” and is making the world a “greener” place, one ray at a time.  CSI recently installed a home solar panel system for Task Force founder Kimberly Wong, who as a very satisfied customer has seen her electric bills drop from $250 per month to $10 per month.  California Solar Innovations is leading the charge in the search for renewable energy by making solar power a real option for every homeowner.  CSI has also agreed to pass along a $500 discount to any Task Force related customer and to additionally donate $500 to the Task Force for any customer who states that he or she is affiliated with our Task Force. So, go green now!

Many additional people contributed in-kind talents and donations which really made the evening a smashing success. Legendary Latin jazz guitarist (and spouse of Task Force member Cynthia Harding) Ciro Hurtado (www.cirohurtado.com) played solo guitar and brought melodious beauty to the event.  Cynthia Olkie, a professional photographer, likewise donated her time and talent to take photos of the event (www.fleurphoto.com), and Dyal Productions (www.dyalproductions.com) drastically discounted their services to film the program portion of the event. Chunky B. donated his time to assist us with a live auction.

The evening program’s focus was on a courageous and passionate presentation made by Mr. Raul Martinez who spoke about his wife Kelly’s valiant but ultimately unsuccessful battle with postpartum mood disorders and about the need for greater awareness and training of health care providers. Raul is the husband of Kelly Abraham Martinez and the father of Melina Martinez.  In Kelly’s honor, the Task Force unveiled the Task Force Kelly Abraham Martinez Training Fund (TFKAM Training Fund), (More on the TFKAM Training Fund) which will be a dedicated subaccount focus on Task Force training efforts across all levels of providers.

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