NAMI-MC 'Pathway to Awareness' Starts Saturday
Are you a Sopranos fan? Was Ralphie one of your favorites? Would you like to meet Joe Pantoliano (aka Joey Pants) in person?
If you are not a Sopranos fan, would you like to meet a famous character actor of stage and screen? Joe Pantoliano has played in "Dirty Business," "The Fugitive," "The Goonies" and many other films, including the latest, "Canvas" with Oscar winner, Marcia Gay Hardin. Pantoliano will be the star attraction for the third annual Pathway to Awareness Weekend, sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Moore County Saturday, Oct. 4, and Sunday, Oct. 5.
"We started this weekend event three years ago to bring brain disorders and the accompanying stigma out of the closet," said Marianne Kernan, co-chair for the weekend and NAMI-MC president. "This awareness is working, as folks come up to me and ask about this or that resource for their loved one who suffers from a mental illness. We now offer programs for both the consumer (peer-to-peer) and his/her family (family-to-family) to help them understand the illness that has affected the family for two or 20 years. With this community's support and knowledge, this affiliate has grown from 70-some to over 120 folks eager to learn more to help their loved ones."
The weekend's activities begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, at Owens Auditorium on the campus of Sandhills Community College, where Pantoliano will speak on "Brain Illnesses -- Busting the Stigma." His lecture is free and part of the Ruth Pauley Lecture Series (RPLS) at SCC.
While completing the film "Canvas," which is about a family's reaction to the mother's brain illness, Pantoliano realized that he too had actually suffered major depression during his adulthood without having a name for it.
When he received the brunt of stigma in the film industry, he decided to speak out on the subject, and has become a national NAMI spokesperson to eradicate the misinformation associated with brain illnesses.
On Sunday, Oct. 5, at the Pinehurst Village Hall, Pantoliano will host a "greet and meet" session from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Simultaneously, there will be the successful "Ask the Professionals" Forum in the Hall with Dr. Fernando Cobos, psychiatrist with FirstHealth Outpatient Behavioral Services and Barbara McGowan, LCSW, private therapist. They will answer the public's questions about anything relating to mental illness.
At 2:30 p.m., the Pathway to Awareness Walk of 1/2 mile to two miles around nearby Rassie Wicker Park begins. With large informative posters placed throughout the scenic pathway, one will learn about the many famous people, living and deceased, who have been diagnosed with a brain disorder -- manic-depression (or bipolar disorder), schizophrenia, major depression, or OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).
At 3:30 p.m. the meaningful "Candles in the Sky" observance will take place, which is hundreds of helium balloons being released to honor or remember individuals. Each balloon has a tag that designates the honored person by those who donated and asks the finder of the balloon to return the tag to Moore County.
Balloons are launched for a donation of $5 each. Amazingly, each year NAMI-MC receives numerous notes from those finding these tagged balloons over 2 1/2 hours away in Chesterfield, S.C., or Wilmington, who in turn share their stories.
One such family from Bethune, S.C. (near Camden) wrote last year, "Your balloon came to rest in a tranquil, peaceful setting in a small clearing where the only sounds were birds chirping in a gentle breeze rustling the leaves in nearby trees. My husband and I discovered it yesterday morning while riding in our golf cart on our property surrounding our home. Ironically, we have just suffered the loss of my dear father, my hero, this past Sept. 19, after a long, lingering and devastating battle with Parkinson's disease. We extend our sympathy to the family and friends in the loss of your loved one and pray for a cure for brain disorders and neurological diseases. Warmest regards."
All weekend events are free and open to the public, courtesy of community sponsors, which include MPRI and RPLS; Sandhills Center for MH/MR & SA Services and Snow Management Group; McDonald Brothers; Cherry, Bekaert and Holland, FirstHealth of The Carolinas, BB&T, First Bank, Prudential GOS Real Estate, The Kernan/Purnell Family, The Pilot and Whistle Stop Press.
"When you're bringing in a big star to help inform the public about brain illnesses, one absolutely needs financial help," says Ellen Airs, co-chair. "These sponsors have helped us annually spread the word since we first hosted Patty Duke in '06, and we're most grateful."
Individual and team advance registrations for the walk are appreciated. For a $10 donation from a participant, they will receive one commemorative T-shirt. A balloon bought to honor or remember a loved one is only $5, but best purchased before this special weekend of awareness.
Call NAMI-Moore County at (910) 295-1053 for more information or visit www.nami-moorecounty.org for additional information.
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