Kiwanis Club promotes fundraiser, new financial aid program for teen mental health

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published March 22, 2024

 The Kiwanis Club of Troy’s fundraiser will feature four local restaurants bringing wine and food, as well as music and raffles for baskets, pictured.

The Kiwanis Club of Troy’s fundraiser will feature four local restaurants bringing wine and food, as well as music and raffles for baskets, pictured.

Photo provided by Vicki Cerven-Astell


TROY — The Kiwanis Club of Troy is getting the word out about teen mental health and suicide prevention with a new financial aid program and its yearly fundraising event.

Vicki Cerven-Astell, the president of the Kiwanis Club of Troy, said the new financial aid program is focused on connecting teens who have mental health concerns with local organizations and providing them with the financial aid to take advantage of the initiatives run by those organizations.

“The new mental health counseling assistance program is geared toward youth in either high school or middle school who have a need for additional counseling outside of the school system,” she said. “They may have financial needs, but with the help of the Troy school system, we hope to identify those who need that extra help. We will be working with other organizations to help with the financial needs aspect. We are still working out the specifics, but we will refer these youths to them.”

One of the organizations partnering with the Kiwanis Club of Troy is the Judson Center, based in Farmington Hills.

“The Judson Center provides outpatient behavioral health services for families in Oakland County,” said Jamila Stevens, the director of integrated care services at the Judson Center. “We have been working with community organizations to let people know we have these services available and show we are accessible to families. We function as community partners with the Kiwanis Club of Troy, so they help inform parents about us as a resource.”

The fundraising event, called the Fundraiser for Youth Mental Health Youth Assistance, will take place 5-8 p.m. on Friday, May 17, at the Troy Historic Village. The Troy Historic Village is located at 60 W. Wattles Road. The event costs $50 per ticket.

“We’re hoping from the May fundraiser to support the (financial aid) program enough to launch the program this coming autumn,” said Cerven-Astell. “The fundraiser is our annual event to raise funds for mental health causes. It will have corporate sponsors this year, so we have four local restaurants bringing wine and food. … There also will be competitions like cornhole, raffles for baskets, a band or DJ will provide music, and it will have a Hawaiian theme with a competition for best dressed.”

It is the second year the fundraiser has been hosted, and the Kiwanis Club of Troy hopes to make it an annual event.

“It’s important to attend the fundraiser because they are innovative and they are doing great things for the community. They are supporting those who need mental health assistance who may not have the resources to get it, which is very innovative. They don’t want to offer help, but ensure families who need help can get it,” said Stevens. “Support groups like the Kiwanis Club, and support them. The awareness they are bringing to people at risk for suicide is huge, and they are doing so much good work to help families get the help they need.”

Cerven-Astell said that the only thing stopping many teens from getting much-needed mental health help is a lack of resources.

“Some of these youths may only need one or two sessions and need only 50% funding, but we want the help they need to be available no matter what their needs,” she said. “With the upcoming fundraiser, we hope to raise money so we can maintain this program as a year-round program. We want there to be the money these kids need to be available.”

Stevens said that mental health aid for teens is more important than ever.

“We are noticing more and more, especially post-pandemic, that children are more empowered to speak up about depression and anxiety,” she explained. “A lot of people are struggling with mental health, and we want to not only help, but also make it easy to access those services. The biggest problem for a lot of families is knowing where they can go to get the help their kids need.”

Cerven-Astell said that “it’s important with anxiety and stress in their environments and is a leading issue in schools today. Guidance counselors are overwhelmed, and students are falling through the cracks. We want to break the stigma of talking about mental health.”