Last weekend I spent two days in the Napa Valley where $2.8 million dollars were raised by the fierce advocates for curing all brain disorders, Garen Staglin and Patrick Kennedy. These two men are the co-founders of One Mind for Research which aspires to end brain disease. One of their important initiatives is focusing on Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress, life-threatening epidemics amongst our veterans (as 22 of our nation's heroes die by suicide everyday). To be in the presence of the patriarchs of this cause was nothing short of miraculous. They have created a revolutionary movement of hope for diseases that have been overlooked and underfunded.
The 19th Annual Music Festival for Mental Health started when the Staglin Family launched their extraordinary philanthropic effort for brain research after their son, Brandon, was diagnosed with schizophrenia. This year the festival started with a riveting scientific symposium where the audience of 450 people learned about groundbreaking research by leading neuroscientists. Promising advances were reported such as vaccines, neuroimaging, cognitive training, research on the brain-gut connection -- the hope was palpable.
We celebrated the scientists and their research with concerts, wine, food and the finale of dancing to Tim McGraw, an ardent supporter of brain research and our nation's veterans. As the music began to loft everyone into party mode, I found Brandon Staglin in the crowd and tightly hugged him. Time froze as I stood with him, said thank you and acknowledged quietly to myself that he inspired all of this hope, love and celebration. Brandon's life experience, resilience, the love of his family and his courage have changed so many lives and provide the brightest beacon of light to us all.
As we sit with yet another horrific tragedy triggered by inadequately treated mental illness, we salute Patrick Kennedy, Garen Staglin and Brandon Staglin for leading the charge to cure these diseases once and for all. This is more than just life or death... it's many lives and many deaths. Let's follow their heroic example and join forces to end brain disease now!