TOP (AND BOTTOM RIGHT): HAYDEN LUCAS LEADS THE WAY IN THE HOPE FOR DEPRESSION RESEARCH INAUGURAL TEEN RACE OF HOPE 5K
It was a sea of yellow t-shirts on Sunday, May 21st when more than 275 teenagers, their families, friends, and teachers flooded Pier 40 for Hope for Depression Research Foundation’s (HDRF) inaugural Teen Race of Hope 5K to defeat depression. On a perfect spring day, with beautiful views of Manhattan as a backdrop, participants set off on a 3.1-mile course along the Hudson River, unified in HDRF’s signature color t-shirts and hats.
The race was conceived by 17-year old Hayden Lucas in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month with the goal to bring attention to the youth mental health crisis in the US. and fight the stigma that still surrounds mental health and treatment. The event marked HDRF’s first Race of Hope in New York City, and the first one to be youth focused. HDRF also holds an annual Race of Hope in Palm Beach, FL. and Southampton, NY.
Lucas, a junior at Dwight High School, served as the leader of the newly formed HDRF Teen Task Force. Joined by 16 student ambassadors, Lucas was the Chief Student Ambassador for the Race. “When I came to the Hope for Depression Research Foundation with the idea of a teen race, they were all in, supporting me from the beginning”, Lucas told STYLE of SPORT. “Thanks to them we are able to run here today to spread awareness and work towards ending the stigma about Mental Health.”
CLOCKWISE TOP LEFT: GRIER HAMMOND HENCHY WITH DAD CHRIS HENCHY AND SISTER ROWAN HENCHY; STACEY GRIFFITH; GERALYN LUCAS; L-R: LOUISA BENTON, HAYDEN LUCAS, AUDREY GRUSS, GRIER HAMMOND HENCHY, STACEY GRIFFITH
Grier Hammond Henchy, the 16-year-old daughter of Brooke Shields, served as Honorary Teen Grand Marshal, following her mother’s advocacy footsteps. Shields herself was honored by HDRF with the Hope Award for Depression Advocacy in 2009. “I feel so lucky to know that when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I have someone to turn to. That person happens to be my mom. It’s so important for teens to have a trusted adult they can speak to and feel safe with,” said Grier, “and for every teen to know it is okay to not be okay – and to reach out for help.”
The state of teen mental health across the nation is urgent. More than one in three high school students reports feeling persistent hopelessness, a 40% increase since 2009. Suicide has become the second leading cause of death for teens ages 15 to 19. “These staggering statistics underscore the vital importance of uniting New York’s school communities to better understand the signs of depression and how to talk to teens about it,” said HDRF Executive Director Louisa Benton in opening remarks before the Race.
TOP: TEEN RACE FOR HOPE 5K STUDENT AMBASSADORS
Mental health advocate, famed Soul Cycle instructor Stacey Griffith kept the vibes high and the music pumping as DJ for the race. Hayden is the son of one of her long time students, Geralyn Lucas. “I’ve known Hayden since he was 6 years old. When he told me he had created this teen race for depression and asked if I would be the DJ, of course I said yes,” she shared with STYLE of SPORT. “It sounds cliched to say one person can change the world, but this one kid in New York City brought so much awareness to mental health. He’s the epitome of community leader.”
HDRF Founding Chair Audrey Gruss took the podium before the Race to acknowledge the teens for their energy and activism on the anti-stigma front. “The Teen Race of Hope is primed to even be bigger than our Race of Hope and this is because young people know how to make change. All of you, the young people in our community, are going to be the ones who can make a real difference.”
HDRF was founded in 2006 by philanthropist Gruss in memory of her mother Hope, who struggled with clinical depression. Today, HDRF is the leading nonprofit organization focused solely on advanced depression research into new and better treatments for the illness. The World Health Organization has declared depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide, and yet conventional medications today are outdated and do not fully work for 50% of patients.
The mission of the HDRF is to spur innovative neuroscience research into the origins, medical diagnosis, new treatments, and prevention of depression and its related mood disorders. To date, HDRF has provided more than $50 million through over 200 grants for breakthrough depression research that promises to transform the way depression is viewed, diagnosed, treated and prevented.
And in the inaugural Teen Race of Hope 5K, another $30,000 was raised.