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Two mental health groups plan annual awards dinners next month

Keith O’Neil, who played for the Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants, will speak April 6 during the 33rd annual National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Buffalo & Erie County Awards & Dinner at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens.

Also, the Mental Health Association (MHA) of Erie County will host its Annual Dinner and Auction from 6 to 8:30 p.m. April 12 at the Atrium @ Rich’s. This dinner will spotlight the work of, an MHA-led public awareness initiative designed to give youth and young adults the tools and confidence to start the conversation about their mental or behavioral health issues, including substance abuse.

O’Neil, who lives in Pendleton with his wife and their two children, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after retiring from the NFL. He has since founded and serves as president of the Fourth and Forever Foundation, a charitable organization that brings awareness to mental health, and funds research for mental illness. NAMI awardees this year include will Monica Bell of HSBC Bank, Michele and Eric Brooks of NAMI Buffalo, the Noble Family Foundation, and St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Snyder.

The event also will recognize the generosity of NAMI Christmas Angel organizations that supported the annual “Christmas is for Kids!” project; The Mansion on Delaware owners Gino and Diana Principi and staff; the Sts. Peter & Paul Church’s Social Action Committee “Mitten Tree Project”; and the Town Line Lutheran Church’s “The Quilt Ladies” project.

Tickets cost $60, or $110 per couple, and are available through Thursday by calling 226-6264 or emailing


The Veterans One-stop Center of Western New York will receive the MHA’s Community Impact Award; and Marcy Rose, past president and current member of the regional NAMI board, will receive the Advocacy Award; and Kathy Morris, a Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteer, and Sammy Violante, Living with OCD Support Group facilitator, are being honored as Volunteers of the Year. Howard Hitzel, president at Lake Shore Behavioral Health, will receive the Professional of the Year Award;  Doug Hahn, an MHA youth peer mentor, the Courage to Come Back Award; and New Era Cap Co., the Right-Mindset Award, for leading the community in creating a mentally healthy culture at their workplace.

Tickets cost $75 and can be purchased by calling 886-1242, Ext. 326. or emailing

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