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October 20, 2010 - Kids' Definitions of Happiness Surprising

What: Aurora Mental Health Center annual art show and fundraiser

Where: Red Lion Inn, Aurora, CO

When: Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Time: 5:00 - 8:00 p.m

Host(s): Larry Davila, President, Board of Directors

Staff: Randy Stith, Chris Beasley, Dan Dawson, George Gielow, Debbie Grace, Michael Kucera, Marvin Robbins, Kathie Snell, Richard Swanson

Introductions: Larry Davila

Welcome: Larry Davila

Catering: Red Lion Hotel

Of note: Denver Area Community Educational Facilities

Sponsors: Citywide Banks

Menu: Finger sandwiches, chicken burgers, marinated vegetables, chocolate fondue

Attendance: 300

Attire: Casual

Event Coordinator: Cindy Bohl

Board of Directors: Larry Davila, Barbara Shannon-Banister, Pat Noonan, Jane Barber, Paul Zimmerman, Linda Ashburn, Marsha Berzins, Peter Cukale, Lynn Donaldson, Gregg Fanselau, Gigi de Gala, Mary Helen Gautreaux, Jacqueline Gonzales, Regis Groff, Tim Huffman, Sara Jarrett, Elsie Lacy, Lori MacKenzie, Linda Metsger, Rachel Nunez, Nancy O'Shields, Ara Plummer, Gerry Rasel, Suzann Reikofski, Ruth Ryan, June Smigel, Sue Spiller, Mark Stephenson, Sudhir Verma, Sharon Works, John Young, Kathy Zinter

Blacktie Photos by: M. Darcy

 1st Place Winner, Isabella Ello (grade 7-8) with self-portrait
1st Place Winner, Isabella Ello (grade 7-8) with self-portrait "Happiness is Finally Getting a Dog"

Kids' Definitions of Happiness Surprising
story by
M. Darcy
For kids, material happiness costs less.  For example, at the Aurora Mental Health Center's 4th Annual Art Contest & Show on Wednesday, October 20, K-12 students' art defined happiness as 
"Sun Over a Hill", "Large Crayon Flower", "Art & Chocolate", "The People You're With.". They also defined it in abstracts, such as, Happiness is "Fun," "Silliness," "Whimsical Life." Some were a little more concrete, like "Riding a Tractor!"
It's a provocative contrast to adult definitions, which are usually termed by achievements or material possessions, such as, "I'll be happy when I meet Mr. Right and have a four-bedroom house, get that promotion or retire."   For kids, it's, "Finally Getting a Dog" or "Loving Yourself and Finding Your Goofy & Random Personality Absolutely Beautiful & Honest".
Randy Stith, Executive Director of AUMHC explained that this year's Art Contest & Show's theme of "Happiness Is..." was open-ended to allow kids the greatest freedom in creating submissions.  "It's fun to see what kids do with the theme," Stith said.  He added that for good community mental health, "it's important to instill the message of defining happiness at the school level to get kids thinking about their own happiness."
This year, the contest received three times as many entries as last year.  Rob Hay has been encouraging his 5th graders to submit for the past several years.  "It's fun to see what makes them happy; you learn something about the kids" he said.  "It's a positive message that gets kids thinking positively." Hay was recognized, along with teachers Amanda Deegan, Mark Manners and Emma Cardillo, Jennifer Funnell and Lisa Adams for their level of participation in the contest.
One of the 1st Place Winners, Beryl Allee thought carefully about her title, "Happiness is Never Out of Reach.". "I wanted it to be inspiring for people going through emotional turmoil," she explained, making the connection with AUMHC.  
Hokan, a client being treated for severe depression is getting back on track through AUMHC.  He attended the art show.  "Happiness starts inside your head with your attitude," he smiled.  "You get back what you put out.  I see that now."  Gabriella Ello's award-winning piece, "Imagining the Impossible" may be most significant for him.  When you live with despair, he explained, happiness seems impossible.  The hotline saved him.  "The guy on the phone told me, 'suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.'. He was right.  I've changed my whole attitude.  I've stopped complaining."
What makes you happy?  Check out programs at or call 303-617-2300 and get inspired at next year's Art Contest & Show.
AMHC would like to recognize the following educational facilities for their participation in this year's show:
  • Aurora Mental Health Childcare
  • Aurora Youth Options
  • Campus Middle School
  • Cottonwood Creek Elementary
  • Coyote Hills Elementary
  • Crossroads Transition Center
  • Eaglecrest High School
  • Fox Ridge Middle School
  • Hampden Academy
  • Hemphill Middle School
  • Kenton Elementary
  • Liberty Middle School
  • Lotus School for Excellence
  • Montview Elementary
  • Murphy Creek K-8
  • North Middle School
  • Overland High School
  • Parklane Elementary
  • Pine Ridge Elementary
  • Sable Elementary
  • Strasburg Elementary
  • The Challenge School
  • Timberline Elementary
  • Vanguard Classical School
  • Wheeling Elementary
  • William Smith High School

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