Over spring break, a Wagner swimming and diving teammate, Meredith Ketchmark, sent out an e-mail to our team to ask us to lend a helping hand to an organization dear to her heart called Attitudes in Reverse (AIR). AIR is a non-profit organization run 100% by volunteers. All proceeds are raised through donations and fundraisers which the organization hosts. We made a Harlem Shake Video to show our support for AIR. See the Wagner Swimming and Diving team shake for AIR on YouTube!
I had the privilege to talk to the founder of the organization, Mrs. Tricia Baker and hear her speak passionately about her organization's mission.
Mrs. Baker lost her nineteen-year old son, Kenny, to suicide. Kenny was diagnosed with depression and severe anxiety disorder at the age of 15. His high school tried to erase his existence because they didn't understand that his suicide was due to mental illness, not selfishness. This caused Kenny's sister and mother to start AIR, to educate people about mental illness and to help people who are struggling with the condition.
Through AIR, hundreds of lives have been saved. AIR has provided an outlet for teens to come out and discuss their struggles with their illnesses and seek guidance to help them through their illness. Many people do not understand mental illnesses; some people do not believe that it is a genetic condition simply because the outward signs of what most people think of "illness" are missing. Just because you cannot see it does not mean that it does not exist. Mrs. Baker told me that most people have the belief that suicide is a selfish act, while actually the person who commits suicide is doing it in an act of selflessness. She knows that Kenny ended his life because he felt that he was burden to his family and friends. To make their lives easier, he chose to end his own to make the lives of those around him easier.
Mrs. Baker confessed that she will never be able to experience the joy she once had because of the loss of her son. Nevertheless, her hope is that she will be able to save the lives of teens, so that their friends and family will not have to go through the same painful experience she and her family, as well as many other families, have gone through.
Not only does Mrs. Baker's organization strive to help save the lives of people, but she also strives to save the lives of dogs. Her organization partners with local dog shelters, and uses forms of animal therapy to help those struggling with mental illnesses. When I ask her what keeps her motivated when working her part-time job and running the organization, she told me that "by helping other people, we are helping ourselves as well." She hopes that by raising awareness all over the country about mental illnesses and how to approach those who suffer from them, that people will reach out with open arms and be treated with equality.
Come out and learn more about AIR at the Second Annual Wagner College Health Fair on April 18th, 2013 from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m., or go to their website to learn more, donate, or sign up to volunteer at their 2nd Annual Miki & Friends 5k Walk & Run for AIR on Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 9 a.m. in West Windsor, New Jersey!