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May 08, 2009 - ADMHN Welcomes Author Augusten Burroughs

What: annual benefit luncheon

Where: Inverness Hotel & Conference Center

When: Friday, May 8, 2009

Time: Booksigning at 11 a.m.; luncheon at 11:30 a.m.

Mistress of Ceremonies: 850 KOA's April Zesbaugh

Honoree(s): Margie Walsh and Melanie Worley

Speaker: Augusten Burroughs

Music: Peneplain Jazz Trio

Sponsors: HOPE: Citywide Banks, Lockton Companies LLC; TRUE CHOICE: Behavioral HealthCare Inc., Highlands Behavioral Health; VOICE: Arapahoe and Douglas Counties, Arapahoe House, Aurora Mental Health Center, Cherry Creek Schools, City of Glendale, Community Reach Center, Intermountain Rural Electrical Association, Kaiser Permanente, NAMI Araphoe/Douglas Counties, Nikolas Golosow, M.D., Signal Behavioral Health Network, Inc.,

Menu: Inverness Caesar salad, assorted rolls, grilled chicken breast with hurricane pineapple relish, wild rice, fresh vegetable du jour, wild berry tart

Attire: Business

Board of Directors: Thomas Flanagan Jr., President; Jean Ray, Vice President; John Phillips, Secretary/Treasurer; 'Nita Brown; Attila C Denes; Margaret Gordon; Mario Harding, MHA, FACHE; Todd Helvig, PsyD; Kelli Kane; Maude B Lofton, MD; Oksana Navratil; Patricia S Opper, LCSW; Gail E Ploen; José Reyes, LPC, EDD; Richard F Spiegle, PsyD; Carla A Vellos; Melanie Worley; Commissioner Susan Beckman; Scott R Thoemke, Ed, CACIII, Ex Officio; Community board members: Tom Burger, Pat A Echtermeyer, Jennifer M Elpers-Wells

Blacktie Photos by: Pamela Cress

 Volunteers worked very hard to make the event a success.
Volunteers worked very hard to make the event a success.

Acclaimed author Augusten Burroughs took the crowd for a spirited rollercoaster ride of a keynote speech Friday afternoon, as he reflected on the many highs and lows of his life and how mental illness played a part. Aptly so, since Burroughs was the guest speaker at the 8th annual Mental Health Benefit Luncheon put on by Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network, and the attendees at the Inverness Hotel & Conference Center listened with rapt attention as he skipped from subject to subject like a ping pong ball.

"You can't really draw the line between those with mental illness on one side and those that are healthy on the other," he said. A product of a father who was a professor but mentally "absent" when he was not teaching, and a poet mother who took "occassional trips away from sanity" while he was growing up, Burroughs gave the attendees a glimpse of the sarcastic, dry musings that have made him one of the most popular authors of an eclectic audience.  He spoke with honesty and humor about his tumultuous childhood, struggle with alcoholism, and life with his brother John Elder Robison, who grew up with Asperger's (part of the autism spectrum) at a time when the diagnosis didn't exist. Ranked as one of the “25 Funniest People in America,” Burroughs is the author of the best-selling memoir Running with Scissors (on the New York Times bestseller list for more than four years), Dry (the gritty and, not at all glamorous, details of his alcoholism rehabilitation); A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father; and more.

Burroughs at one point spoke directly to Taylor Payson, a 14-year old who courageously took the stage prior to Burrough's speech to tell about her mental issues and the drawings that have come out of them. "You have things now that will help you that I didn't have," he told her. "You will learn that you have skills that other people don't have, and you are able to get help from people who don't belong in prison."

Also part of the lively program were two honors bestowed each year. The Pat Echtermeyer Community Award was given to Margie Walsh, who took her mental health struggles with her daughter and turned them into becoming a driving force behind educational, fundraising and training programs with ADMHN and NAMI. She has run support groups, taught classes, served as a board member for ADMHN and is a tireless advocate for mental health causes.

The Distinguished Service Award was given to former Douglas County Commissioner Melanie Worley. She is involved in numerous political and legislative projects and has been an instrumental advocate for protecting the benefits of the mentally ill and lobbying for expanded coverages. She holds a federal appointment on the Local Government Advisory Committee, which provides a county perspective on issues to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

As Melanie stated in her acceptance speech, "Please, please don't stop what you're doing," and it is evident that Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health continues to make a difference in the comprehensive mental health community.

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