As Lawrence High School sophomore Arabella Gipp began to realize a personal disconnect with the mental health resources in the area, she could also see those around her were in the same boat. This prompted her to take action.
“I struggled with mental health throughout my years. I have seen it affect people, both in myself and with loved ones, and it was really hard for me to get any help for that,” Gipp said.
Gipp, Standing Rock Sioux, created and organized a fair called “Surviving or Thriving?” to bring awareness to the agencies and organizations in Lawrence that provide mental health support as well as how to access them.
Gipp was also named the Boys & Girls Club’s 2022 Lawrence Youth of the Year, and she said with that title comes responsibility — so she wanted to give back through an informational, yet joyful, event.
The fair, scheduled for Saturday, will consist of mental health resources and information on therapy options around town, a Fun Run, a raffle, guest speakers, food, music and more. Gipp explained that though she’d like to center people of color, she aims to reach the entire Lawrence community and show that asking for help is OK.
“Mental health affects everybody no matter your race, gender, sexuality or age. And it’s geared a little bit more toward people of color because they tend to have less resources out there, but again, it affects everybody,” Gipp said.
The Fun Run is meant to be more unconventional than a traditional one as the running route will be a square around a field and participants will be encouraged to participate freely. Gipp said this is to signify how exercise can be a healthy outlet or coping mechanism.
Other activities going on will include corn hole, chalk, and a scavenger hunt as well as community painting, which Gipp said she’s most excited for. There will be two big canvases with taped-off sections all around, and each person in attendance will be encouraged to paint their own section. Gipp plans to auction one off in the raffle and hang the other in her room.
“At the end we’ll have tons of people with different personalities, and it’s just like a creation of what the event did,” Gipp said. “Painting is also a coping mechanism, so it just reflects the event perfectly.”
Prizes, like beadwork handmade by Gipp’s grandmother who lives on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, will be raffled off. T-shirts, stickers and pins will be for sale, too. Payment will be accepted in the form of cash or via Cashapp, according to the event promotion.
Gipp said her goal is to raise $2,500 in proceeds, which will all go toward supporting the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence and the Landen Lucas Foundation. Both have special meaning to her.
“Boys & Girls Club has been my day one since I could remember, and every time I’m having a rough day at school, I just wish that I can go to BGC,” Gipp said.
“And the Landen Lucas Foundation helps underprivileged kids pay for sports. Landen Lucas actually played [basketball] at KU, so he’s still around this community and helping kids who grew up kind of like him — with single parents — and that’s how I met with him, because we both have single mothers. So I’m just trying to give back to those organizations that have helped me through quite a lot.”
Vendors will include Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, Kansas Suicide Prevention HQ, Bridget Dixon of Monarch Play Therapy, LLC., Honor Moon, Willow Domestic Violence Center, The Sexual Trauma and Abuse Care Center, the Indigenous Community Center, Fleet Feet – Garry Gribble’s Running Sports, Indian Health Services, and the Lawrence Public Schools’ Native American Student Services.
High school student organizations, such as Lawrence Student Equity Coalition — with representatives from Lawrence High and Free State — and the Lawrence High Mental Health Team, will also be at tables to speak about the work they do.
After a year of wanting to organize this event as life got in the way and continuously set it back, Gipp said she is excited to now see her vision coming to fruition with the help of her community.
“I had an amazing team backing me up. All of my mentors at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence have helped me tremendously,” Gipp said. “My mom has been a lot of help, too. I’ll be texting her like, ‘Has this person emailed you back, has this person emailed you back?’ She’s been really patient with me.”
The fair is scheduled for noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Adobe Flats, the grass field located behind the football field at Haskell Indian Nations University, 155 Indian Avenue in Lawrence. The Fun Run will tentatively be from 1 to 3 p.m.
All are welcome to stop by and stay however long they’d like, Gipp said. No pre-registration or entry fee are required to attend.
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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.