“The statistics about children’s mental health are just devastating to read. I take it as our call to action. It’s time for all of us to step forward in any way we can to help.”
As a mental health advocate, children’s mental health is something Jan Thome is very passionate about. She recently stepped forward with a $500,000 matching challenge gift to the Park Nicollet Foundation Children’s Mental Health and Well-Being Campaign.
Social isolation, loss of routines, and traumatic grief have led to significant increases in the number of school aged children experiencing severe anxiety and depression.
“I’m hoping this matching gift will help motivate people to join in this call to action – to get involved and give,” Jan said. “I invite everyone to join me in this journey—and let’s build a healthier future for all kids.”
Supporting children’s mental health programs
The $5M Campaign will help deepen and expand the programs that Park Nicollet Foundation provides in many of our local schools including: No-fee children’s health and mental health services, specialized grief counseling and death related crisis response. In 2021, these programs supported more than 39,000 children, families, and school staff in 17 school districts.
“I grew up in a family where service to others was a core value. Volunteering has always been a part of my life,” she said. “My father was an executive at the YMCA and helping others is something that was instilled in me when I was just a little kid.”
Living that lesson throughout her life, Jan put in many hours volunteering. It was her experience in her children’s classrooms that opened her eyes to the number of kids who were struggling with mental health—and how many didn’t have access to support.
“I saw how hard it was for parents to face the stigma of mental health, and some simply couldn’t do it,” she shared. “Sometimes it’s really hard to recognize the signs that your child needs help and to know where to turn to get it. And many families don’t even talk about mental health…you can’t get help if you don’t know help is there—or if you think you’re the only one.”
Donate to support mental health
Jan and her late husband, Ken, have been donors to the Park Nicollet Foundation for close to 20 years. Ken also served on the Park Nicollet Health Services Board for eight years before completing his term in 2013.
“I started supporting the Foundation’s children’s mental health programs several years ago. The more I learned the more I realized how special they are and how needed they are.”
“I’m at a place in my life where I really want to rekindle my purpose and help make a difference,” she explained. “I don’t have the skills to provide the counseling help, but I do have financial resources to give.”
“Being part of this Campaign makes me feel like I can finally do something. It gives me purpose back—it makes me feel good.”
Her children are very supportive of her gift too. Her daughter, Karen, told her she hasn’t seen her this excited in a long time. And, her son, David, has shared that he can hear her passion about this effort, and is proud to have his mom helping to change the conversation around mental health.
“The more we can do for kids at the younger ages, the better chance they have, and the healthier our society will be with healthier young adults.”