Tuesday, August 11, 2020. Hot and humid is still the story here in New York. Well kids, it’s August, so wotta you expect? Yesterday the temp in late afternoon was 93, not counting the humidity taking on several more digits.
New York is very quiet now, as it always is at this time of the year. There remains a quieter sociability for those of us who have stayed in town. Although many restaurants are open (serving only outside), and people are getting out. We need to see each other; we need to be together for our own mental health if nothing else. The limitations that the lockdown created are not healthy for any society. The “mask” and the “social distancing” run counter to that. Some believe it will now always be thus. If so, we are finished as a society. Alienation is not cohesive and naturally runs counter to recognition and harmony.
The Sunday before last was my birthday and among the birthday wishes I received was a letter from Jane Dolan who also shares my birthday and the year. We have known each other since we were very young, living on the same street in Westfield, Massachusetts, just two houses down, and attending all of the same public schools. After graduation we lost track of each other, but about ten years ago, we had a reunion – thanks to Jane. Although almost five decades had passed it was interesting to see that we were the same, personality, temperament and curiosity. We probably left our beginnings about the same time.
Jane has lived in several places across the world and a number of years ago she settled with her husband in Mexico. I still don’t know what took her there but she’s definitely one of those people who is very comfortable living in foreign lands. But her birthday letter re-confirmed that this great big world is nevertheless small to those who share friendship.
Today, Jane lives in Zirahuen, Mexico, a small village with less than 10 expats living in it, about a five hour drive, due west from Mexico City. Her house is located with a view of Lago Zirahuen (which means “mirror of the gods).” It is a quiet village that has not had, thus far any touch of the virus. The residents don’t wear masks, nor do they social distance. It is also a well known tourist destination most of the whom are national and for the most part do not wear masks either.
The village is located close to three cities that have had, and still have, many cases and deaths — Uruapan, Patzcuaro and Morelia. All of the expats Jane knows are staying mostly at home. When they go to Patzcuaro, etc., they wear gloves and masks and social distance.
“I am happy that I have over a block of land so I can do one of my favorite things in life which is gardening: veggies, flowers and fruit trees. I can take walks the land with my dogs running free.” It’s a good life although she does wish she could travel and see family and friends.
She’s a reader, currently re reading Teju Cole’s Known and Strange Things. There are no English bookstores available, although there is a small English library in Patzcuaro but it’s closed because of the virus. “I do have a kindle so that gives me reading material plus I have books to reread.”
“Zirahuen also does not have a permanent police station, a bank, an ATM machine, a good grocery store, or a wine shop so I have to mask up and glove on to go to Patzcuaro to shop and get money. I cannot really complain. My handyman is here daily and the cleaning home twice a week … and then there is the convenience of calling everyone everywhere.”
Meanwhile back here in Manhattan, despite the quiet of the time, the philanthropies looking after our good health and bearing continue on their march to support our needs.
Award-winning actress and producer, American Institute for Stuttering Board Member, and longtime supporter, Emily Blunt hosted the 14th annual American Institute for Stuttering’s (AIS) Benefit Gala on July 9th, which went virtual this year due to the Covid-19 crisis.
The evening featured a personal conversation with Vice President Joe Biden, Emily Blunt and The Atlantic’s Senior Politics reporter, John Hendrickson, a life-long stutterer.
Eric Dinallo, Chairman of the AIS Board of Directors, and Emily Blunt “re-imagined” the annual live event into a virtual format incorporating the audience favorites. Clinical Director, Dr. Heather Grossman, gathered the speech therapy clinicians along with clients to share their stories about embracing their stutters. Actors Austin Pendleton and Wayne Brady along with joined the virtual event to share their personal stories.
Reflecting how stuttering impacted his life, Joe Biden said, “In the end, it will be a gift, it will have a lot to do with who I become, have a lot to do with what I set out to try to do. I always was the guy who thought I could fix everything and I think it’s given me an insight that I wouldn’t have otherwise had… Remember, you can make a gigantic difference in a kid’s life and there’s so many talented kids out there now that are part of this organization.”
Emily Blunt also shared her personal connection to the cause, “They often think of it as psychological, or that you have a nervous disposition or something – but it is hereditary. It is neurological, it is not your fault and there’s nothing you can do about it. I just want to make it known that it’s very common and raise the awareness so that we can really support these kids.”
Longtime AIS supporter, co-founder of The Home Depot, and owner of both the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, a Major League Soccer team, Arthur M. Blank, shared what the Institute means to him, “as someone who stuttered as a child, I know how it feels to be dismissed because of the fluency of speech. It’s important that every voice is heard, which is why I’m proud to support the American Institute for Stuttering. What really matters is that you speak your truth, whether you stutter or not, and believe in yourself.”
Now, more than ever before, AIS’ work has become critical as many clients who stutter have reported feelings of isolation and concern about the lack of social interaction that has resulted from the pandemic. AIS has continued to provide a supportive sense of community during these very difficult times.
More than 3 million Americans and 60 million people worldwide stutter. The AIS offers affordable, state-of-the-art therapy and support to people who stutter as well as guidance to their families. It provides much needed clinical training to speech-language professionals and students seeking expertise in stuttering treatment. There are full and partial scholarships for its therapy, and has treated over 10,000 people across the United States in its 33-year history. Visit www.stutteringtreatment.org to learn more.
The Hope for Depression Research Foundation (HDRF) hosted its first-ever Race of Hope Drive-By Lunch in Southampton on last month to thank top donors and kick off the Virtual Race of Hope which brought together hundreds of runners across the nation this summer to raise mental health awareness.
Traditionally, the race takes place in Southampton every summer, and has been one of the charity’s signature events since 2015. This year, the Race it went “virtual” with an online opening ceremony and countdown on August 2nd.
A Drive-By lunch took place on a perfect, sunny day in front of the Southampton Cultural Center on Pond Lane. HDRF Founder and Chair Audrey Gruss in running cap, tee-shirt and face mask – all in HDRF’s signature sunshine yellow, waved and thanked guests as they drove by in their cars to receive a delicious picnic lunch to take home. Race of Hope Co-Grand Marshals Jamee Gregory and Arthur Dunnam also joined Audrey in greeting guests.
More than 30 top donors attended, lining up by car on Pond Lane, which was also decorated with HDRF’s HOPE yellow balloons (recyclable and environmentally friendly). Each guest received the straw basket tied with yellow ribbon and brimming with a lunch of sliced chicken, two side salads, cheese platter, cookies and brownies and fresh cherries and peaches. The baskets were generously provided by Race sponsor Eli Zabar. Other major sponsors are Findlay Galleries and Livingston Builders.
Martin Gruss led the procession of arriving cars in a bright yellow 1972 vintage Ferrari. Giant “Stand with Me” banners of past HDRF celebrity honorees, with quotes about overcoming depression, were lined up to remind guests that depression advocacy is critical for reducing stigma and sparking life-saving conversations.
“Depression is a grand-challenge public health issue that was critical before COVID-19 and imperative now,” Audrey told guests. “Mental health needs to be a top priority for our nation now, and we are so thankful to all our Southampton supporters who are answering the call.”
Depression is the Number One reason for disability and suicide worldwide, and yet more than 35% of people do not respond to conventional medications. That is why HDRF’s advanced research into new and better treatments is so urgent.
Guests included: Lisa Aery, Steve Bernstein, Janna Bullock, Amanda Gruss Chambers, Eliza Nordeman Davis, Roy Cohen, Max Federbush, Alex Schaffel, Bambi and Roger Felberbaum, Lucia Hwong Gordon, Alan Glatt, Peter Gregory, Kim Heirston, Mariana Kaufman, Anne S. Nordeman, Scott Snyder, Clelia and Tom Zacharias, Richard Ziegelasch, and Silvia Zoullas.
Audrey Gruss founded HDRF in April 2006 in memory of her mother Hope, who struggled with clinical depression. Today, HDRF is the leading nonprofit organization focused solely on depression research.
More than 300 million people annually struggle with depression globally, but despite its prevalence, depression is still misunderstood, underfunded and under-researched. HDRF’s mission is to fund cutting-edge neuroscience research into the origins, medical diagnosis, new treatments, and prevention of depression and its related mood disorders, including bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder and suicide.
To date, HDRF has provided more than $36-million through over 125 grants for accelerated breakthrough depression research that promises to lead to new and better medications and treatments.