Prescription for mental well-beingFour Superior teens are prescribing a night of comedy to combat depression. The high school seniors plan to make audience members laugh, guffaw and giggle during the Friday event, “Help Amberwing Take Flight.”
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Four Superior teens are prescribing a night of comedy to combat depression. The high school seniors plan to make audience members laugh, guffaw and giggle during the Friday event, “Help Amberwing Take Flight.” Proceeds from the show are earmarked for Amberwing, a new mental health and wellness center for children and young adults, ages birth to 25, in Duluth.
“I think it’s really important for the community to bond together to make this center a reality,” said Amanda Tesarek, who is coordinating the comedy event with Natalie Burger, Jenny Ostrowski and Nolan LaPorte.
The project, part of their senior social studies class, encouraged the students to look for a need in the community and then make a difference.
“I have witnessed some of my close friends hurting from depression and drug use, and it’s really difficult to want to help but know you can’t,” Tesarek said. “If this center is built, hopefully it will give my peers an opportunity to get the help they need in a warm and inviting environment.”
A troupe of actors ranging from middle to high school college student and professional comedians improvise scenes based on audience suggestions. Some have more than 10 years of experience in the art form; others are novices.
“One of the best things about improv is that everything is fresh and unexpected,” Tesarek said. “What you see on stage has not been done anywhere else. It’s completely original.” What audience members can count on, she said, is a night of laughs.
It is, as far as the students could recall, the first time a night of improv comedy has been staged at the school.
“We really wanted to do something different with this project,” Tesarek said.
Burger said she’s excited to be part of organizing the fundraiser.
“This event will showcase some of the comedic talent at our school and in our community while supporting a great cause,” she said.
The idea for Amberwing began about two years ago, according to Traci Marciniak, program director of development for the Miller-Dwan Foundation. The need for mental health and chemical dependency care for children, teens and young adults is huge. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15- to 19-year-olds in Wisconsin and Minnesota, according to state health department information. It is the fourth leading cause of death for 10- to 14-year-olds in Wisconsin. Eighteen percent of high school students in Wisconsin reported having seriously considered suicide according to a 2005 Youth Risk Behavioral Survey. Each month in the Northland, an average of two children or young adults die of suicide or drug overdose. Yet mental illness is treatable and suicide is preventable. According to save.org, 80 percent of those who are treated get well.
Under the current programs available at Miller-Dwan, about 16 children and young adults can be served at any one time.
“We always have a waiting list, which can be weeks long,” Marciniak said. Once Amberwing opens in September, that capacity will jump to 60.
“According to behavioral health staff, we could fill it right now,” Marciniak said.
The majority of the funding for the $6 million Amberwing center — 95 percent — has come from individual donors. It shows, Marciniak said, that “people recognize the need and want to make it happen.” Although construction is underway, another $100,000 must still be raised to meet the $6 million goal.
The quartet of Superior High School seniors want to help fill that gap. They said they are passionate about their project because it hits home.
“My group just really hates seeing our fellow classmates in pain,” Tesarek said.
Everyone in the community is invited to fill the high school’s Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. Friday for the improvised fundraiser.
Admission is $5 with every penny going to Amberwing.
For more information on the center, call (218) 786-2823 or visit millerdwanfound.org or givevoicenow.com online.