The Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce welcomed special guest Rob Ninkovich, New England Patriots Defensive End to Great Wolf Lodge for a Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Awareness event.

The event, held on the evening of Tuesday, October 11, 2016 drew over 200 attendees and addressed the issues of suicide, mental health concerns and opioid addiction in the northern Worcester County region.

Rob Ninkovich has been a key player for the New England Patriots since 2009 and has been a member of two Super Bowl teams. He has been touched by suicide in his professional life.  He recounted how teammate and NFL Hall of Famer Junior Seau, a seasoned veteran, was one of his mentors and how devastating and unbelievable it was when Seau took his own life in 2012.

Ninkovich also discussed the need for open dialog, pointing out that while there is a lot of information available, most people who need help do not seek it. He acknowledged how important and supportive his family had been for him during his recent suspension.

Congresswoman Niki Tsongas and State Senator Jen Flanagan, both actively involved in leading the fight against these problems also addressed the gathering.

In addition to the speaking presentations, over twenty local agencies that provide diverse resources related to the suicide prevention, substance abuse and mental health awareness were available to address concerns and provide information on their services.

Chamber President & CEO Jim Bellina said “The evening’s objective was to make the business community more aware of the magnitude of the problems, the attendant signs and the resources that are there to help. I believe we achieved that objective but it is only a beginning”

Kandi Perry, Senior VP of MVP Sponsor Agera Energy said “Agera is honored to have the opportunity to take the lead in this important undertaking and it is a privilege to work for such a community minded company.”

Touchdown Sponsors included Heywood Hospital, Fidelity Bank/Shine Initiative. Field Goal Sponsors were Advanced Cable Ties and Tyco Simplex/Grinnell.  First Down Sponsors included C.M. Chartier Contracting, Elms College, GAAMHA, Inc., and Mount Wachusett Community College. Kickoff Sponsors were Athol Savings Bank, Colonial Co-operative Bank, Eastern Propane, GFA Federal Credit Union, MassMen, MedStar EMS, Pete’s Tire Barn and Unitil.

Football Fan Sponsors were the A.E.D. Foundation, Inc. and Lynde Hardware & Supply, Inc.  Press Box Sponsors included Competitive Edge Marketing & Design, Great Wolf Lodge, Pro Sports MVP, Travers Printing, Inc., The K-Zone WPKZ 1280/105.3, WGAW1340.com and WTAG News Radio 580/94.9.

A portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to suicide prevention/awareness initiatives in the greater Gardner region and Heywood Healthcare’s Quabbin Retreat, slated for opening later this year in Petersham. This innovative facility will provide outpatient, residential and inpatient services to adults and adolescents struggling with behavioral health and substance abuse problems.

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