INDIANAPOLIS — The Irsay family and Indianapolis Colts announced an upcoming four-day virtual fundraiser to support “Kicking The Stigma,” an Irsay family initiative meant to raise awareness about mental health disorders and remove shame that can be associated with the illnesses.
The initiative was announced during a virtual press conference at at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“It’s a very difficult situation to be in,” said Colts Owner & CEO Jim Irsay. “Right now, today, April 14th as the sun shines in Indianapolis, there are people right now out there that are thinking about ending it. That’s the reality. It’s like, ‘Maybe today . . . I can’t take it anymore.’ We have to get to them because that’s how we can change all of society.
“People are afraid, they’re scared, they’re lonely, they’re outgunned, and they need support in a big way. We’ve really tried to approach it from that aspect. We don’t want to leave anyone alone. We want them to know that there’s a path and a way to help.
“That’s the contrast that people that live with this illness that is so encompassing. It’s so important for us to find a way to get to them. It doesn’t matter how handsome you are, how much money you have, who you are, what the situation is in anyway shape or form. When you suffer from this illness, we’re all brought down to that real different aspect of ‘Why are we here? It’s not making sense to me.’ We want to reach those people because there is a solution.”
The Irsays also released a 60-second public service video – it has been shown locally and nationally – that features Jim Irsay, Kalen Jackson and All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard.
“Darius’ involvement has been incredible,” expressed the Colts’ owner. “He’s able to have a powerful message from such a strong individual. And that’s really what it’s about. The stronger person shows that they’re vulnerable. The stronger person cries. The stronger person talks about the difficult things that you talk about. A lot of times in this country you’re taught to ‘Buck up, don’t talk about it, just grit it down’ and that kills people.”
The Irsay family also has committed more than $4 million in the past year to expand mental health treatment in Indiana, including Indiana University Health, Ascension St. Vincent Stress Center and Suburban North Club.
The event will take place May 3-6 and will kick off National Mental Health Awareness Month. Each day will feature a different theme:
- 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) and 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.”
The funds raised during the virtual event will go toward a new Kicking the Stigma Fund, which will be used to help grow programming by Mental Health America (MHA) Indiana, NAMI Greater Indianapolis, Project Healthy Minds and Bring Change to Mind.
The funds will also go towards grants to help Indiana-based nonprofits that work in the area of mental health.
The effort was influenced by the annual NFL “My Cause My Cleats” campaign, which allows players and coaches to 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.