Kenneth Braswell, executive director of Father’s Incorporated; Terrie M. Williams, inspirational author, mental health advocate, and founder/president-The Stay Strong Foundation; Dr. Gerald Landsberg, professor/director-Institute Against Violence at the NYU Silver School of Social Work; Darcel Dillard-Suite, MS, co-founder and COO of the Center; Derek H. Suite, MD, MS, co-founder and CEO of the Center; Waleska Williams, accepting the award on behalf of her husband, NY Yankees’ Bernie Williams; Linda McGee, an educator for the Archdiocese of NY; and Layon Gray, author of the acclaimed award winning Off-Broadway play, “Angels Over Tuskegee.” (Photo by Gerald Peart)

*The Full Circle Life Enrichment Center (the “Center”), a not for profit New York-based center providing counseling support to families and children in need, celebrated its 10th anniversary on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at the Chelsea Piers Lighthouse in New York City from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

NY1’s criminal justice reporter Dean Meminger served as Master of Ceremonies.  Rev. Dr. A.R. Bernard, founder and senior pastor of Christian Cultural Center, served as keynote speaker.  Entertainment was performed by the cast from Layon Gray’s acclaimed award-winning Off-Broadway play, “Angels Over Tuskegee.”

Themed “Sax, Strings, Sonnets and Songs,” this year’s gala gathering raised awareness and funding regarding mental health illnesses, particularly major depression.  Proceeds from the gala will continue the important work of the Center.

Each year, the Center bestows its coveted “Inspire Award” to luminaries in medicine, theater, education, music, and sports “in recognition of their powerful decisions to use extraordinary talents, gifts and abilities as unwavering sources of inspiration and hope to hurting children and families worldwide.”

“This celebration also will help raise much needed funding to expand our education and training programs and national awareness about depression, in particular, and mental health, in general,” explained Derek H. Suite, MD, MS, co-founder and chief executive officer of the Center.

Layon Gray’s “Angels Over Tuskegee” cast and gala honorary chairs (l-r) Annanais Dickens, Melvin Huffnagle, Layon Gray, Darcel Dillard-Suite, Dr. Derek Suite, Thadeus Daniels, Thom Scott, and David Roberts. (Photo by Sunny Norton)

After an inspiring invocation by Rev. Alfonso Wyatt, guests dined on a sumptuous menu followed by the awards presentation by Dr. Suite who was joined by his lovely wife Darcel Dillard-Suite, MS, co-founder and chief operating officer of the Center during the awards program.

“Our Center’s mission is to eliminate barriers such as stigma, shame and fear associated with mental illness or seeking mental health treatment, commented Dr. Suite.  “It is therefore fitting that our theme this evening is a celebration and honoring of those individuals who have championed for ‘Hope, Help, and Healing’.”

Following a delightfully informative video presentation by the awardees highlighting how advocating for mental health is important to their programs, foundations, and their art, the Suites presented the distinguished “Inspire Award” to: Kenneth Braswell, executive director of Father’s Incorporated; Terrie M. Williams, inspirational author, mental health advocate, and founder/president, The Stay Strong Foundation; and Dr. Gerald Landsberg, professor/director, Institute Against Violence at the NYU Silver School of Social Work/

Also New York Knick Allan Houston; Linda McGee, an educator for the Archdiocese of New York; Layon Gray, author of the acclaimed award winning Off-Broadway play, “Angels Over Tuskegee;” Ntozake Shange, author of “For Colored Girls….” accepted on her behalf by Terrie M. Williams; New York Yankee Bernie Williams accepted on his behalf by his wife Waleska Williams; gospel artist BeBe Winans (who left for South Africa the day before); and Brandon Marshall of the Miami Dolphins.

“Approximately 15 million American adults, or about 8% of the U.S. population, suffer from major depression; 80% experiencing this disease are not receiving treatment for it,” explained Dr. Suite during his eloquent closing remarks.  “We are dedicated to serving hundreds of poor and hurting families nationwide by providing support to help overcome the fastest growing disability in the country.”

The Full Circle Life Enrichment Center’s mission is to eliminate barriers such as stigma, shame and fear associated with having mental illness or seeking mental health treatment.  In this regard, it is committed to increasing access and usage of culturally competent mental health services.

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.

Audrey J. Bernard