On Wednesday, Juneau-Douglas High School students came together to spread holiday cheer to the less fortunate. Members of the Mental Illness Teen Health Club (MITH Club), sponsored by National Alliance on Mental Illness-Juneau, went down to Polaris House and handed out holiday gift bags.
Polaris House is an International Clubhouse that gives people with mental illness hope and opportunities to reach their full potential.
MITH Club members were asked to gather thoughtful items for adult men and women in transitional living environments or in less fortunate situations. The bags were decorated and filled by the MITH Club members on their own time, with their own money. The day of the gift bag drop off, students brought in items such as hats, gloves, socks, hand-warmers, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, etc.
JDHS students Stuart Thurston, CJ Mariano, Carly Gunnerson and Annie Street gave up their lunch period to drop off more than 40 bags that MITH members created.
Members of Polaris House were incredibly thankful to the students. One teary eyed individual said, "I've never gotten anything with absolutely no strings attached. Thank you for being so kind and thinking of us." At the same time, students received a valuable lesson without any gifts; the true meaning of giving.
"At first I was worried about being around mentally ill people, but when we got there, they welcomed us like family. That was the best lunch I've ever had," said one student. "It really makes you feel good inside!"
MITH Club is the first student-run mental health advocacy club in the country, sponsored by NAMI-Juneau. MITH's mission is to reduce negative stigmas by improving the mental health education support and advocacy at JDHS and in the Juneau community.
For more information, contact Laura Manley, NAMI-Juneau executive director, at 463-4251 or firstname.lastname@example.org.