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May 18, 2006 - Steve Kelley Shares His Story

What: Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network’s 5th Annual Mental Health Awareness Benefit Luncheon

Where: Inverness Hotel and Conference Center

When: May 18, 2006

Ticket Prices: $75; $150

Beneficiary: Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network’s Family Support Program

EMCEE: April Zesbaugh, co-host of 850 KOA’s “Colorado Morning News”

Presenting Sponsor(s): Astra Zeneca, Janssen Pharmaceutica

Executive Director: Scott R. Thoemke, M.Ed., CAC III

Committee Members: Peggy Gordon, Pat Echtermeyer, Jennifer Elpers-Wells, Attila Denes

Staff: Tiffany Radel, Marketing Director; Carolyn Moershel, Development Director; Jamie DeBartolomeis, Public Relations Coordinator

Speaker: Steve Kelley, radio/television personality and mental health advocate

Music: Peneplain Jazz Trio

Sponsors: Arapahoe County Government, Arapahoe House, Aurora Mental Health, Christian Living Communities, Citywide Banks, Behavioral Healthcare Inc., Community Reach Center, Douglas County Government, Intermountain Rural Electric Association, Kaiser Permanente, Littleton Adventist Hospital, Lockton Companies, National Alliance of the Mentally Ill, Palace Construction, Rocky Mountain Institute for Alcohol and Drug Education, Sky Ridge Medical Center.

Menu: Beef tenderloin salad; key lime parfait mousse

Attendance: 300

Attire: Business

Event Coordinator: Tiffany Radel

Board of Directors: M. Michael Cooke, Board President; Steven L. Kennedy, Board Vice President; John Phillips, Board Secretary/Treasurer; Nita Brown; Attila C. Denes; Thomas Flanagan; Jean M. Flynn; Margaret M. Gordon; Michael Hankinson; Robert M. Lauderdale; Gail E. Ploen; Jose Reyes; Dr. Richard F. Spiegle; Paul Staley; Melanie A. Worley; Bernie Zimmer

Blacktie Photos by: Marcelo Mainzer

 Guest speaker Steve Kelley talked openly about his brother's mental illness and his death
Guest speaker Steve Kelley talked openly about his brother's mental illness and his death

Marcelo Mainzer


The Inverness Hotel and Conference Center has been the venue for many nonprofit events, including golf benefits, conferences and other Gala’s. On Thursday, May 18th something very special happened when Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network’s held its 5th Annual Mental Health Awareness Benefit Luncheon and asked Steve Kelly to share the story of his brother.


The day began auspiciously with a sunlight and a light wind to welcome ADMHN guests, they were greeted warmly by a long line of seated volunteers who gave them their name tags, agenda’s and a list of items for the silent auction. A continental breakfast awaited them on the patio, to enjoy while bidding on items like a “Campers Delight” vacation package that included tent, stove, sleeping bags and a Colorado State Parks pass.  Also in the auction, two family photography packages, two nights lodging in Winter Park and an exciting Arkansas River package, just to name a few.


When the doors opened to the conference room supporters of ADMHN strolled in, the feeling of community and friendship, old acquaintance and steadfast reliability filled the room, as is often the case with Douglas and Arapahoe County events. The Peneplain Jazz Trio gave the event an atmosphere of relaxed elegance. April Zesbaugh, morning news anchor, KOA-Radio, acting as Emcee quickly brought the audience of over 300 to attention and proceeded to introduce Scott Thoemke, CEO and Executive Director at ADMHN.


Mr. Thoemke said, “Thank you for your generosity today, it matters a great deal to us that you took the time to be here.” Scott went on to relay some to the major steps taken in the past year including starting their own independent pharmacy.  “We’ve double the size of our Counseling and Psychiatric Services program” and added, “we’ve substantially expanded both our Castle Rock and Parker offices.  And we’ve begun our journey to become a truly recovery oriented network.”


Director Thoemke reported the success of both Bridge House and Santa Fe House, and the expansion of the Adolescent Day Treatment Center to its new facility the Prince Street Academy. He summed up by saying, “We have grown by thirty percent in the last year.”


Before introducing Board President M. Michael Cooke to talk about the new Family Support Program, Scott took a moment to thank each of the sponsors and to acknowledge some of the community leaders in the audience. Scott asked the Board of Directors to stand and receive acknowledgement. He also took the opportunity to recognize the staff that worked to make the day a success he said, “You’re the best and I hope that you all know that.


“I have the pleasure for the forth year in a row to speak to you about the specific programs that will benefit by your attendance here today,” said M. Michael Cooke, next on the agenda. “The diagnosis of schizophrenia or any major mental illness is a family event.”


To address this ADMHN has established a new Family Support Program. Ms. Cooke described it saying, “The central element of which is an evidence based practice called Psycho Education that brings families into the clinical process.”  It is a model, that truly recognizes the vast knowledge and resources that families brings to the recovery process, the families and the consumer are partners in the course of treatment.  “The practice respectfully incorporates individual, family and cultural realities and perspectives,” she continued.  “Family Psycho Education works towards self-knowledge,

self-determination, and choice in recovery.”  Ms. Cooke said, “Perhaps more simply said, family Psycho Education stimulates hope in place of desperation.”


April Zesbaugh returned to introduce Steve Kelley, she joked “I worked with him for nine years as Co-Host of Colorado’s Morning News on 850 KOA, until he went to the dark side last summer, television, Fox 31.” April said, “I have always had a lot of respect for Steve, he doesn’t take his celebrity status for granted and he never has.  He has used it for so many charitable things over the years, overall raising awareness raising over two million dollars for his favorite charities.” April listed some of the actions Steve has done for charity, including sitting in every seat in both the old and new Mile High Stadium, swimming 101 miles for charity, Pogoing from Boulder to Denver and he crawled on his hands and knees for seventeen miles. April finished “I am proud to introduce to you my friend, my mentor, my one time radio spouse, Steve Kelley.”


Steve Kelley, whose smile and sincerity showed through his thick TV make up, as he had come directly from his early morning filming, addressed the audience saying, “In comparison to other stints behind the microphone, this is different this afternoon, it is different because I can be who I really am.”  Then raising the energy and spirit of the room, he launched into his ‘radio voice’, saying, “I’m in a job where we report on disasters, hurricanes, war, fires, immigration, politics, and of course; that all pales in comparison to, who is going to be the next American Idol!”


Steve illustrated his history with slides showing some of his aforementioned charity stunts, including riding on the wing of an airplane. Steve spoke of his growing success both professionally and personally and said, “Here I am in the midst of all these accomplishments, and should have been happy, but I wasn’t.”


When a slide came up, showing two young men and next to each a name Tim Kuzava and Daniel Kuzava, he said, “If I am being completely honest with you, and I want to be, I am not Steve Kelly.”  Steve then went on to tell of his first broadcast job, in high school, as a punishment for talking in class, he was tasked with reading the morning announcements over the intercom.  Steve segued from this to his first paying job as a janitor with WTRX in Flint, Michigan. His luck changed one night when the scheduled announcer failed to appear.


Steve was “asked” to fill in and given a choice between the on air names J. J. Jefferies or Steve Kelley, he chose the latter and it stuck. Steve apologized for the long aside and said, “This is not about me, in fact, in my better moments here today, I hope to talk about my brother, I would pray that whatever comes out of me today is really my brother speaking.”


Steve went on to explain that even with all of his successes, he would literally never allow himself to enjoy it, because, he continued, “I was always at Ypsilanti State Mental Institution, because that’s where my brother Danny was.”


“We are going back to the seventies, we’ve come a long way, since then”. The professional announcer’s voice broke with emotion and he admitted that he was speaking about these events for the first time in public since his brothers’ death. A picture of Tim and Dan as infants lit up the screen and he said, “That’s the last time I actually remember consciously thinking that life was great.”  Steve then began to relate incidents in his childhood that upon reflection, showed his brothers deteriorating condition, the accidental burning of his home, his brother’s lack of caution at the swimming pond, repetitive behavior in school, glaring self doubt and being marked as strange by his peers.


He continued sharing their story, one familiar to mental health professionals. “From the psychologist to the psychiatrist, then the medications, the halfway houses”, he went on, “all of a sudden he wasn’t home anymore.”  Danny would run away from the halfway house to return home, “the police interventions and then the arrests, the hospitalizations, the stabilizations.”


Steve spoke for the families of many people who have a relative with mental illness when he said, “It was amazing the tension and chaos that existed in our house, so that I couldn’t wait to get away.”   After four years, Steve visited his brother for the first time.   He was at first reassured when he saw the lovely exterior of Ypsilanti State Mental, but “when I walked in the smell of urine was thick.”  Steve saw first hand the horrendous conditions not uncommon, in institutions of that era.


His parents had run out of resources and signed him over “In essence he was Michigan’s child.” Steve was shocked to hear a voice call his name, from a person he did not recognize, his brother. In desperation, Steve vowed to somehow take his brother back, “I made it my life’s purpose to get him out of there.”  Steve found out that the task he had set before him was enormous, to wade through the bureaucracy associated with trying to release someone from state ward ship and survive in his or her own life.


With the help, and heeding the advice of his father-in-law, Steve was able to accept that “He’s not your child, he’s God’s child, give him back.”  Steve said, “It wasn’t until that moment, that I was free.”  Steve continued, referring to his brother, “I had let him go.”  


Steve learned that this simple act could be miraculous; the next day at the taping of a commercial he met someone who led him to Dave Murphy, then head of the Denver Mental Health system. What had stymied Steve for four years, trying to move his brother to better facilities here in Denver, was accomplished in a short time by Dave said, “God intervened, I think, because I truly cried out and said I can’t do this.”


Danny was brought to a facility at 22nd and Downing; he was stabilized and weaned from many of his medications. “Dave and his staff got Danny on just a few meds and we got him back, to as close to reality as he had been in a long time.”  Danny had to relearn many of the basic skills of life all over again. Later Steve said, “At that time Dave Murphy and Denver Mental health were doing dynamic, wonderful things, but it wasn’t enough, it was like patching an inner tube with three holes you would patch two but air would still leak out.”


In desperation, Steve placed his brother with a family who, for a fee “adopted’ him, this too turn out badly and Danny had to be forcibly remove when it was found that he was near starvation. Finally Danny was brought to Rocky Mountain Hospital, near Rose Medical Center. Danny was stabilized again, but the facility did not have a long term care option.


So after viewing several “dismal” choices Steve continued, “there was one left, and we drove out to Brighton to a place called Beverly Manor.”  Steve mimicked Danny’s joy and excitement on seeing this place in the middle of a cornfield and it felt like home, in the middle of the country.  Danny said, ‘I want to live here, this is where I want to be, I want to live here.’  Steve praised the work of Yolan Savage and Adams County Community Mental Health system for their pioneering work in combining educational, social and residential programs. Steve said, “He had a model that was fabulous.”  Unfortunately, Beverly Manor went through a series of owners and though the outside appearance remained impressive, internally the care deteriorated.


Steve ended by revealing that his brother may have died of toxicity from a side affect of Closopine because his blood had not been tested sufficiently. Steve said, “He didn’t have to die; he didn’t have to be in a nursing home any longer, because there are places like Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network, if I had only known, we could have done something.”


Steve finish by voicing his gratitude saying, “I thank you Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network, and all of you who are here.”   Steve continued, “Because you care for people like my brother, I thank you for that, I honor you for that, and being available and moving forward in a new and dynamic way to help families. It’s too late for me and my family in one sense, but thank you for bringing together the two worlds that I lived in. Thanks for the opportunity to speak with you here today and God Bless you.”


Steve receive tremendous and lasting applause for having the courage to share his story, April Zesbaugh returned and gave the final thanks “For all of you, helping to make mental illness a little easier for families who have to deal with it.”


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