First time mental health benefit raises over $15K

Published 4:00 pm Monday, September 18, 2023

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Many who organize a first-time benefit will have worries that people won’t show up. That wasn’t the case Saturday night for the Mental Health Awareness Benefit, held at Austin’s VFW Post No. 1216.

According to Don Leathers, who organized the benefit with his wife Marsha and Club Manager Sonya Dolan, he estimates the event raised a bit over $15,000 with some money still expected to come in.

“We were absolutely humbled,” Leathers said. “Any time you do something like this, deep down inside you think, ‘I hope people show up.’ And they did.”

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Prior to the event Leathers said they had hoped to get the VFW to the point of bulging and it was close to that Saturday as several people looked through the items up for bidding during the silent auction, enjoyed some food and enjoyed a mild evening outside listening to 507 Country.

Leathers said that all told, there were 66 businesses throughout the area that gave to the benefit, including businesses from Austin, Albert Lea, Hayward, Glenville, Spring Valley and Alden.

He continued by saying that that kind of support shows just how much of an issue the mental health crisis is.

“Mental health isn’t something you really talk about,” Leathers said. “Mental health is kind of a hush hush thing. The key word is ‘awareness.’”

It hasn’t been specifically determined yet who all the organizations are that will receive funding from the benefit, however, Leathers did say that two organizations that have been determined so far will be the Power of Pink program for young girls as well as the Boys of Tomorrow program for young boys.

All donations, though, will be made locally to the Austin area, Leathers said.

Early on, before the benefit, Leathers said that organizers hoped that not only would the benefit raise money, but people would also come out and have fun.

At the end of the day, though, Leathers said that most importantly it’s a chance to bring the   issue into the light more.

“There are a lot of problems that lie dormant and this is one of them,” he said. “There are a multitude of things that have come to the surface. We want this to come out of the darkness and be able to speak about it more openly.”