By Peter Hepner
One of the wonderful things about Kenilworth Union Church is the number of causes it supports. Many of those causes are beyond the Church’s walls and are done through its Outreach program. However, there is a specific mission within the Church called the Alison Tobey Smart Memorial Fund, known to many as ATS, which serves the youth of the Church, as well as the youth of the community.
ATS was established in 1986 by Jackson and Sue Smart after their daughter, Alison, died tragically of suicide at age 17. The Fund’s original programming sought to reduce suicide and suicide attempts by developing and implementing programs focused on problems common to many high school students such as substance abuse, self-destructive behavior and depression. The goals of our work have grown to include issues such as self-worth, decision-making, problem solving, resilience, service, and communication, as well as offering training for parents, youth, and Church leaders to understand suicide risk factors and warning signs.
The bold work of this fund helps us to reduce the stigma that deters so many young people from seeking mental health services when they need them.
To highlight some of our efforts, this year in particular, we will send care packages to our college freshmen, celebrate and bless our graduating seniors at our annual senior brunch, distribute awards to young people who served this community with distinction, fund speakers through the Family Action Network, and offer confidential financial aid to families in need who are struggling to provide mental health treatment for their teenagers.
We know the work of the ATS Fund is important to you and your family because each of us are touched in some way by mental illness and suicide. We cannot do this vital work without you, and it has become meaningful to us because we know it is a matter of life and death. We have hope that together, we can be part of creating a web of love that is rooted in God’s deep love for each of us.
The rose has always been a symbol of for ATS and Alison, whose life was like a young rose, just beginning to unfurl. Please see the rose on our logo as a sign of life and the wonderful things that it brings to the children of this church and beyond.