The Jim Irsay Family, owners of the Indianapolis Colts, today announced a four-day virtual fundraiser in May to support Kicking The Stigma, an Irsay family initiative to raise awareness about mental health disorders and to remove the shame and stigma too often associated with these illnesses.
"Unlike other disorders of the body, many are reluctant to step forward to get help because of the shame and stigma that has long been attached to mental health," said Colts Owner & CEO Jim Irsay. "The Colts and my family commit today and moving forward to 'Kicking The Stigma' surrounding mental health and encouraging our friends, fans and neighbors who are struggling to seek the help they need."
The fundraiser – scheduled for May 3-6 – also will kick off national Mental Health Awareness Month.
Each day will feature a different theme and will be highlighted by:
- A roundtable hosted by Carson Daly of NBC's The Today Show and The Voice, with NFL players Darius Leonard (Colts), Hayden Hurst (Atlanta Falcons), Solomon Thomas (Las Vegas Raiders) and Darren Waller (Raiders) sharing their personal experiences with mental health.
- An online auction with unique experiences with or signed memorabilia from actor and comedian Jim Gaffigan; former Colts Peyton Manning, Tony Dungy, Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne and Jeff Saturday; Colts general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich; and current Colts Carson Wentz and Leonard.
- Unique digital and social content and story sharing, featuring testimonials and messages from Oscar-winning writer and director Cameron Crowe; actor Rob Lowe; actor and comedian Mike Epps; as well as Frank & Linda Reich, Manning, Dungy, Daly and others.
"I'm honored to join the Colts and the Irsay family in their Kicking The Stigma initiative," Carson Daly said. "Mental health advocacy is a cause I feel passionately about and removing the stigma associated with mental health illnesses and disorders is imperative.
"I'm thrilled to see an NFL team make an impact in this space, and I'm also proud to serve with [Colts vice chair & owner] Kalen Jackson as board members for Project Healthy Minds, an organization dedicated to confronting the mental health crisis," Daly added. "We want to normalize the mental health conversation, educate and support individuals who might be struggling with a mental health disorder, but are hesitant to seek help."
Funds raised will go toward a new Kicking The Stigma Action Fund, which will support expanded programming by Mental Health America (MHA) Indiana, NAMI Greater Indianapolis, Project Healthy Minds and Bring Change to Mind. The fund also will provide grants to Indiana-based nonprofits working in education, support and advocacy of mental health.
The effort grew out of the NFL's annual My Cause My Cleats campaign, where players and coaches wear specially-painted cleats during a game highlighting a nonprofit or cause of their choice. This year, Irsay and Colts Vice Chairs/Owners Carlie Irsay-Gordon and Kalen Jackson participated and wore shoes bringing awareness to common mental disorders.
Kicking The Stigma's focus is two-fold: raising awareness about the prevalence of mental health disorders in our communities, and raising and distributing funding to nonprofits and other organizations to expand treatment services throughout the community.
Steps already taken to advance the cause include:
» National PSAs with R.E.M. To begin this effort, the Irsay family produced a 60-second public service announcement, in collaboration with the legendary rock band R.E.M., using their chart-topping song Everybody Hurts. The PSAs, featuring Irsay, Jackson and Leonard, have aired in national rotation, as well as locally in Indianapolis.
"R.E.M. is proud to contribute Everybody Hurts to the Colts and the Irsay family in support of 'Kicking the Stigma,'" said Mike Mills, a founding member of R.E.M. "If we can reduce the stigma around mental illness, more people will seek and receive treatment."
» Expanding Treatment. In addition to producing and airing the PSA nationally, the Irsays have committed more than $4 million in the past year to expand treatment services in Indiana, including to:
- Indiana University Health. This gift will help fund the expansion of the IU Health West Addiction Treatment Recovery Center.
- Ascension St. Vincent Stress Center. This gift will be used to support and enhance the comprehensive array of treatment and care provided at the Ascension St. Vincent Stress Center, including specialized treatment for a variety of mental and behavioral health issues in both youth and adults.
- Suburban North Club. These funds will help build a new facility for the organization, which serves as a meeting location for Alcoholics Anonymous clubs in Indianapolis.
- Expanded local programming by community partners. In addition to money raised during the May event, the Irsays also are donating funding to help MHA Indiana, NAMI Greater Indianapolis, Project Healthy Minds and Bring Change to Mind expand their services in Indiana.
» "The Big Book." Irsay is the owner of The Big Book, the original manuscript of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Published in 1939, it was ranked 10th by the Library of Congress in its 2012 Top 25 Books That Shaped America.
Irsay purchased the manuscript at auction in 2018 to preserve it and share inspiration from the work with others to relieve the stigma of alcoholism and addiction in society. He regularly loans the piece to museums, organizations and others who work or advocate in the addiction space.
"I am only a steward of this masterpiece, so I love to share this important piece of history with survivors, researchers and all who want to learn about, prevent and treat addiction," Irsay said.
» Irsay Family Wellness Center at Indiana University. The Irsay family, led by Vice Chairs/Owners and IU alums Casey Foyt and Jackson, last year endowed the center in Bloomington, Ind. to help student-athletes reach their goals while emphasizing their physical and mental health and wellness.
"You're taking care of your body, but your mental health is so important, especially at that age," Jackson said. "There are kids who are coming to IU and have a lot of responsibility in addition to school, and they're not with their parents. That's why the center specifically is important to us – really coming full circle and taking care of the entire individual."