Laughter Brings Atlanta Together for Mental Health

ATLANTA – On Thursday, October 18, 2018, Skyland Trail held its signature fundraising event, Benefits of Laughter, at The St. Regis Atlanta. The event welcomed more than 500 guests and raised more than $892,000, which will support important therapeutic programs, family support services, and financial aid to help clients access and complete mental health treatment at Skyland Trail.

“Over the last 21 years, Benefits of Laughter has raised nearly $12 million dollars to help individuals receive world-class psychiatric treatment at Skyland Trail,” says Beth Finnerty, president and CEO.

The event was led by volunteer event chairs Donna and Stan Sands. “Donna and I saw firsthand the heartbreaking consequences of a crisis in a young man’s life,” says Stan Sands. “After an agonizing search, the young man’s family found Skyland Trail. From the moment he stepped through the door he was on his way back to a fulfilling and productive life. Tonight, as chairs of this Benefits of Laughter, we are grateful to the patrons and corporate sponsors who are demonstrating their support for mental health by being a part of this event and the Skyland Trail community.”

As part of the program, Nikki J., a Skyland Trail graduate, shared his personal story. After a series of suicide attempts, Nikki enrolled in the psychiatric residential treatment program. As part of the program he received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and began an evidence-based treatment program combining appropriate medications and therapies.

“I knew that if I didn’t do something that was more long-term – that was really structured – I probably wouldn’t survive,” says Nikki. “Skyland Trail was a good choice. I’m glad I took myself seriously enough and valued myself enough to make that choice.”Today, Nikki is a university student studying American Sign Language and works part-time as a supervisor at a coffee shop. He hopes to combine his language skills along with his previous background in biomedical engineering to help people who are hearing impaired participate in discussions about health.  

Proving that laughter brings people together, guests enjoyed a comedic performance by Roy Wood Jr. Wood has made appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman, TBS’ ConanThe Tonight Show with Jimmy FallonLate Night with Seth Meyers, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In 2017, he was named the new host of Comedy Central’s story telling series, This is Not Happening.

Support from the community was led by leadership sponsors Cox Enterprises and the Isdell Family Foundation and diamond corporate sponsor, Delta Air Lines. Platinum sponsors included Atlanta Fine Homes | Sotheby’s International, J.B. Fuqua Foundation, Donna and Stan Sands, and Betsy and Mark West. Gold corporate sponsors included BNY Mellon Wealth Management; Holder Construction; IBERIABANK; Intercontinental Exchange (ICE); Jet Linx; Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors, L.P.; Masters Capital Management, LLC; MONTAG; Renasant Bank; Shaifer Capital, and WellsFargo.Silver corporate sponsors included Atlantic American Corporation; BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina; CBRE; Crawford Investment Counsel; Emory Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences; Georgia Natural Gas; Gray Television, Inc.; Greenberg Traurig, LLP; Homrich Berg Wealth Management; Ironwood Insurance Services, LLC; JP Morgan Chase Bank; The Laughing Skull Lounge; NAI Brannen/Goddard, LLC; New South Construction PNC; Printpack; PwC; Russell Reynolds Associates; and Sherlock’s Wine Merchant.

Patron committee chairs Mary and Tom Watson led outreach to individual supporters. Corporate committee chair, Robert Wynne, and members of the volunteer corporate committee helped secure contributions from the business and professional communities.

Skyland Trail is a nonprofit mental health treatment organization that offers residential and day treatment programs for adults ages 18 and older struggling with mood, thought, and anxiety disorders.