Founder & Director of Community Development


When was the first time you heard the term 'mental illness?'

 I remember being diagnosed with OCD and talking all about my OCD with John Kelly and my therapist but I don't recall us bringing up the term 'mental illness.' We always used words like "I'm doming out" or telling each other that "the OCD is kicking in." The first time I truly recall hearing the term 'mental illness' was on the news. They used it to describe the psychological state of a murderer. Looking back on it, I should've been shocked. The term is so often associated with evil acts or wrong doings rather than simply being associated with someone who's suffering or going through mental health battles. Having a mental illness shouldn't be a negative! It's just something that we should be aware of so we can fully take care of ourselves and those around us to live the happiest and healthiest life possible.  

Describe a time a medical diagnosis changed your perspective on a situation.

 Being diagnosed with OCD completely changed my perspective. As a 7th grader, I just thought these thoughts I were having were "crazy" and that I was just "so different" from everyone else. It was really frustrating and I would always feel a bit embarrassed to be honest. I constantly wondered what it would be like to be free from these thoughts and fully enjoy life like I saw my friends doing. (Little did I know, so many people I knew had similar thoughts, but were hiding them just like me!) After being diagnosed, John Kelly helped me realize that it was "normal" not to be normal. As I got older and older and met more and more people, I realized just how many people were in the same boat. It was very comforting to know that although everyone's struggle was different, we were fighting together!!!  

If you could replace the term 'mental illness' with another word or set of words, what would it be?

That's another great question. I love what Doctor Kelly says. "When you take the I out of illness and replace it with WE it becomes mental wellness." That's a powerful statement, and proves the power and responsibility we all have. The more we listen, share and are there for each other the more healthy we become! In addition, the less stigmatized these struggles become, the more we become more comfortable seeking help! But to answer the original question, maybe "mental ailment?" Language is tricky but my real hope is everyone approaches it in their own way and checks in with each other to see what others are comfortable with.

Who is John Kelly to you?

John is my hero, and he personified what it was to be a beautiful person. He was constantly helping me feel better and more confident about myself and I felt like he was my biggest fan. At the same time, I was his biggest fan. I truly idolized him growing up. He was always the friend of my brother who let me join in on all the fun. He was so welcoming, and always wanted to make you feel wanted even if others around him didn't. He was a trailblazer. Truly, everything he did, he did with you in mind. He was incredibly unselfish and he brought so much love, comfort and energy to every situation we were in. When my friends would compare me to John it would put the biggest smile on my face because I thought he was the coolest person ever growing up. He changed and shaped my life in so many ways and I dedicate my own fight and my relentless drive to help others to him. During his time on earth, he taught me so much about how important it is to always be yourself and to help others whenever you can. His mentality shaped the way I live my own life. John was my biggest role model and I love him dearly. Not to mention he was just hysterical and always knew how to make you smile and enjoy every situation. There was genuinely never a time in my life that I didn't want to be around John. JCK IS A LEGEND!!!!!

What projects have you worked on at the Foundation?

Pretty much all of them, I've been lucky enough to be with the Foundation since day 1.

All-time favorite breakfast?

WOWWWWWW, tough one. I love to keg out on a lot of things but there's no doubt in my mind, my mom's chocolate chip pancakes! Made with love!! There's no better way to start a day.

Describe a daily struggle you haven't found a good solution to.

Man, that's a good one. I'd have to say organization. I work so hard on improving this but my mind tends to move in hyperspeed and it's always go-go-go. I find myself getting completely lost in the jumble and this makes it so hard to organize myself. It's very difficult for me to slow-down, focus and relax. I go through stretches, but I need to learn to prioritize organization, it makes my life a lot easier and my mom very happy! It's incredible how much clearer I am when I'm focused and organized.

What are you listening to right now?

Wow, these questions are elite haha! There's nothing I love more than blasting "Drowning" by Avicii to get the dreamer in me visualizing!! I love being able to get lost in the song. I've also been listening to a lot of Nora en Pure and I always love a little Enrique Iglesias.

Favorite episode of the podcast?

Hard to say because they all have such a special meaning to me. You really feel John's presence in every episode. I think my favorite will probably always be episode one with Doctor Kelly. I remember it like yesterday, and it was the start of a truly fantastic journey where I've been able to connect and meet with so many incredible people. These stories give me so much motivation, hope and energy. Each week I continue to learn more and more about the world and about myself in the process!! These stories are what truly push the mental health movement forward.

What's your dream for the mental health movement?

 My dream is for us to really live in a world where you never feel isolated or that you can't connect. Connection is such a key in my own life. I want everyone suffering or who knows someone suffering to feel loved and connected and like their back is had at all times, good and bad. I'd love for us to live in a world where we can simply LIVE and where we can talk about our issues when we need to but get to a point where we understand each other so much that these issues become less and less debilitating and we can all focus on enjoying the beautiful roller coaster that is life. I'd love for us to get to the point that even as much as you are struggling, no one feels alone and afraid to seek help or that they don't have the resources to seek help. I also want to get to the point where no one feels like they don't know how to seek help and that everyone can find their own unique way to feel better and be happy with who they are. The more people realize their own beauty, the more we help others see the beauty in themselves.

Who's your hero?

John Kelly

Any hidden talents?

I used to be able to dunk a volleyball when I was in high school and stood only 5'8". I got those BUNNIES!

Best tools we have to bridge the knowledge gap between those who suffer from a mental health disorder and those who don't?

I think the best tools are honestly ourselves. Connection and open conversations is how we learn more about each other and the challenges we all face. We have to be willing to let our guard down a bit and be vulnerable in the right situations. The podcast has really taught me just how powerful honesty and vulnerability is. These stories can change lives, people just need the platform to share when they are ready!!! Everyone's story and timeline is different, but the more we learn from each other, the more connected we are, the easier it is to get the help and support we all deserve.

What would you tell someone struggling right now looking at this page?

You've come to the right place. I know how painful and isolating this journey can be, but I also know how beautiful and unique this life is. The pain is a part of the journey and I promise you that life is filled with peaks and valleys. Sometimes the valleys last longer than the peaks but they do pass, and when they pass, it leaves an empowering feeling that helps you enjoy the beauty of life even more. Just know that I'm here for you and so is the rest of this Foundation, even if you don't feel it right now, I promise you, you are never going to be alone in this. This is the first step. Life isn't always going to be great, but I want you to remember there's a light in you for a reason. When you're struggling, try to remember how much your light has helped others, whether you realize it or not. It's already helped me so much. I guarantee that just your smile and presence alone has changed someone's life for the good. Remember that!! Your story can help someone else struggling, you just might not know it in your own head yet, but I promise you, your story will help someone else.