2018 Shaping Identity Luncheon raises record $1.5 million and launches new mental health center serving Little Village community

Erikson Institute’s 2018 Shaping Identity Luncheon was the most successful on record, raising $1.53 million, announcing a new mental health center for young children and families in Chicago’s Little Village community, and honoring a remarkable children’s advocate.

The event kicked off with civic and business leader Michelle L. Collins accepting the Spirit of Erikson Award, which recognizes individuals who have created significant and lasting change for the children, families, and communities Erikson serves.  A long time Erikson trustee and board chair, Collins shared why she devotes her time and talent to Erikson: “What sustains me today is the dream I have that every child get the proper social and emotional support, education, healthcare, and love to equip them to become healthy, productive citizens,” she said.

Following a dynamic video produced by Board Trustee Eric Adelstein and his company, AL Media, Erikson President and CEO Geoff Nagle announced the opening of a new, first-of-its-kind Center for Children and Families (CCF) in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, which has the highest concentration of young people under 18 in the entire city of Chicago. Little Village represents a community where families face economic instability and community violence on a daily basis, along with the additional stressor of possible deportation. The center is the first in the area to offer comprehensive mental health and developmental services for children 0 to 8. Slated to open in January 2019, the 2000 square foot space will offer a variety of direct services in a supportive environment, carried out by highly trained, bilingual practitioners and experts in the field who will enhance families’ strengths to improve child outcomes.

“Our new center will anchor our work even more firmly in the community, expanding mental health services for infants, young children, and their families,” Nagle said. The services will be “rooted in Erikson’s deep understanding of trauma, child development, and the role culture plays in families’ lives.” Nagle also thanked the Pritzker Foundation, and Cari and Michael Sacks for their generous philanthropic support of the Little Village center.

The program closed with a poignant address by award-winning author and activist Andrew Solomon, who opened his remarks by congratulating Collins on her award, and thanking Erikson for “doing such immensely important work.” Solomon’s keynote presentation, which began with a trailer from his book turned documentary film “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity,” focused on family and acceptance.  “In my experience, most parents love their children. But acceptance is a process, and acceptance takes time,” said Solomon. “It takes a long time to understand the humanity of your child for what it is, and that acceptance has to occur as a matter of self-acceptance, family acceptance, and society’s acceptance.” Solomon concluded his talk after 35 minutes, and was met with a standing ovation from the audience.

Erikson would like to give special thanks to the luncheon’s co-chairs Kathy Richland Pick and Rick Chesley, along with planning committee members Eric Adelstein, John L. Hines Jr., Lori Laser, Diane Goldstick Meagher, Kate Neisser, Ashley Hemphill Netzky, and Cari B. Sacks, and the host committee.

For more information on Erikson Institute’s Centers for Children and Families, visit www.erikson.edu/center-children-families/

To donate to Erikson’s challenge grant, where all donations will be matched through December 1, visit www.erikson.edu/give

To view the 2018 Shaping Identity Luncheon photo gallery, click here.