Kathy Brandt and Ron Capen
Why We Support NAMI Colorado Springs
As a couple, the two of you are generous donors to NAMI-Colorado Springs. Kathy, you’ve also served on the board more than seven years, including several as board president. What drives your commitment to NAMI?
We got involved with NAMI-Colorado Springs after our son was diagnosed with Bipolar I in 1999. It’s important to us to give back to the organization that has impacted us so personally. Over the years we’ve also seen the impact NAMI has on others with mental illness, on their families and friends, and yes, on the entire community. NAMI fights the stigma that keeps people silent, a silence which in turn leads to lack of treatment options, homelessness, and suicide. Giving to NAMI is a natural for us because NAMI saves lives.
A few years ago, you made a very generous donation to NAMI in memory of Ron’s first wife, Sigrid. Why was it important to honor her in this way?
The donation for NAMI’s 30th Anniversary was the best way to honor and remember Ron’s first wife and was especially important for Ron’s kids. When she died, there was that silence. Friends didn’t know how to talk to the family because of the taboos that surround mental illness. The kids needed to know that their mom died from the deep pain of her illness. There was no one to blame. It’s ironic that our local affiliate was founded in 1983, the year that she died. If it had been today, the family could have found understanding and support at NAMI. None of that existed when they needed it. We want others to find that vital support.
You’ve had firsthand involvement, influencing NAMI’s growth and evolution during the past few years. How would you characterize the changes? How is NAMI different now – and how is it the same?
We’re amazed and excited to see how NAMI-CS has grown over the past six years. It is no longer the best kept secret in town. People in the community know NAMI and that it’s a place to find help. The office is not a quiet place but rather a flurry of activity – committees meet, teachers plan classes, the phone rings. We are excited about the new programs – Peer-to-Peer, for those who live with mental illness, Homefront for veterans and their families, and Ending the Silence, which goes into the schools, helping adolescents decide what to do if they are feeling bad or recognize it in a friend. The message: it’s okay to talk about and to seek help. New also is our success at actively involving those with mental illness – as teachers, office volunteers, support group facilitators – restoring confidence and building skills that serve them well.
In spite of all these changes, NAMI is at heart the same. You can feel it when you walk in the door – the smiles, the support, the caring, the love. It has always been that way.
When a person chooses to invest in NAMI-CS, what’s their “return on investment”?
It’s probably a bit selfish – giving ourselves a gift. It’s knowing that NAMI is helping people like us. We’ve heard it from others: “NAMI helped me restore my relationship with my daughter,” “NAMI saved my marriage,” “NAMI changed my life.”