Hope for Depression Research Foundation Honors Mental Health Awareness Month with Second Annual NYC Teen Race of Hope

The Teen Race Of Hope Draws Over 350 to Hudson River Park to Raise Mental Health Awareness and Funds for Research

2024 Teen Race of Hope Student Ambassadors

Photo By: Dan Bassini

The Hope for Depression Research Foundation’s (HDRF) second annual Teen Race of Hope united more than 350 teenagers and their family members, friends, and teachers on Sunday, May 19th at Pier 76, Hudson River Park. The goal of the event is to raise awareness about the crisis in youth mental health in the U.S. and fight the stigma that still surrounds mental health.

Grier Hammond Henchy, the daughter of Brooke Shields, acted as Co-Teen Grand Marshal. Grier is following in her mother’s advocacy footsteps, as Brooke herself was honored by HDRF in 2009 for speaking openly about her experience with depression.

NBC’s Morning News Now anchor Savannah Sellers was this year’s Race Emcee and Soul Cycle Master Instructor Stacey Griffith, mental health advocate, and influencer on social media, spun her signature playlists as the DJ for the second year in a row. Her music energized the crowd, as they prepared and cheered for the Race to begin against the backdrop of New York Harbor.

Sellers said: “We are focused on people who are the same age as a lot of you who are here, and some of the statistics around this are just so startling.” She continued, “The fact that one in three teens say that they persistently feel sad or hopeless. Same with each day, about 4,000 children and teens attempt suicide…This is something that we can work to change by doing things like what you’re doing today.”

HDRF Founding Chair Audrey Gruss also took the podium before the Race to acknowledge the teens for their support and commitment to mental health awareness and speak about the foundation’s core mission.

Gruss said: “One of HDRF’s main goals is to bring awareness to and educate people about depression, anxiety, and all the related mood disorders. The second part of our mission is to raise funds for the most advanced neuroscience research to find out what causes depression, new treatments, and how to prevent it.”

Hayden Lucas, a senior at Dwight High School on the Upper West Side, and Noelle Saldana, a junior at Fieldston School in the Bronx, were Lead Student Ambassadors, and also Co-Teen Grand Marshals alongside Grier Henchy. Noelle will be taking over for Hayden as the new leader of the HDRF Student Ambassador Program, a group of twenty teens from schools all across the city who are empowered by HDRF to engage in their communities to raise awareness about the Teen Race of Hope.

Lucas said: “Today, hundreds of participants are here to make a difference, not only for medical research that we help fund, but also in coming together to create this community of care surrounding mental health.”

Saldana said: “Every step we take today is a step towards a more understanding world. We are showing that together we can create a future where mental health is prioritized, where no one has to face their struggles alone, and where hope is always within reach.”

The state of teen mental health across the nation is more urgent than ever before. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 15 to 19 and almost 4,000 children and teens attempt suicide every day.

Before the Race began, an Ambassador from NYC Teenspace/Talkspace spoke about their program which was established by the New York Department of Health and Powered by Talkspace to bring free therapy sessions to teens aged 13-17. Event participants were encouraged to sign up that day.

The Teen Race of Hope is a 5K (3.1 mile) U.S. Track and Field-certified race. At the starting gun, Grier, Hayden, and Noelle led participants, all sporting HDRF’s signature sunshine yellow color with matching caps and t-shirts, on a beautiful 5K (3.1-mile) course starting at Pier 76 Hudson River Park and continuing along the esplanade with stunning views of the Hudson River.  A sampling of the schools represented included: Chapin, Dalton, Dwight, Fieldston School, Grace Church, John Bowne, Nightingale-Bamford, Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics, Marymount, Phillips Exeter Academy, Red Bank Catholic, Renaissance Charter School, Speyer Legacy, Stuyvesant, and Trevor Day School.

Some participants ran competitively, while others walked or strolled with friends. No matter their speed or age, all the racers united in a common purpose – to support research into new treatments for depression and to fight the stigma still associated with seeking help.

The event is HDRF’s only Race of Hope in New York City and the first one to be youth-focused. HDRF also has held an annual Race of Hope in Palm Beach, FL and Southampton, NY.

At the close of the Race, Audrey Gruss presented awards to the top finishers.  First prize for Top Male Finisher went to Matteo Ruiz (17:28.81), and first prize for the Top Female Finisher went to Ngan Nguyen (21:40.95).

Second place for Top Male Finisher went to Arturo Puerto (18:55.50) and second place for the Top Female Finisher went to Mariam Alshamsi (23:44.84), third place for Top Male Finisher went to Bentley Ferraina (20:14.26), and third place for the Top Female Finisher went to Maggie Clancy (24:51.95).

HDRF Executive Director Louisa Benton then took the stage to thank all the Student Ambassadors and present two special awards to the Co-Lead Student Ambassadors, Hayden Lucas and Noelle Saldana.

HDRF has been a leader in research since 2006, convening top brain researchers from different universities to pool data and expertise to find new and better treatments for anxiety and depression. HDRF also works to raise awareness of depression as a medical illness and to educate the public about the facts of depression and remove the stigma that still surrounds it.

You can view all of the finisher times by clicking here.

Thank you again to ALL our event donors, participants, and volunteers. Your commitment to HDRF’s critical research mission is making a world of difference.

The Teen Race of Hope was sponsored by NYC Teenspace/Talkspace, Balmain Paris, PWR Lift, Scotts Protein Balls, Montauk Iced Tea, and Hudson River Park

The Teen Race of Hope was supported by a team of local Student Ambassadors including Mia Abramson, Marni Arons, Anysa Bickici, Alva Carlston, Ethan Criollo, Hannah Diker, Sophie Higgins, Abigail Kidd, Tanner Klipstein, Hayden Lucas, Ruby McKillips, Summer Nelson, Sophia Rossi, Noelle Saldana, Bryan Samaniego, Gui Sequiera, Ai Vy Shulman, Jennifer Tatu, and Sienna Vadi.

The Teen Race of Hope was featured in CBS News New York, NY1 News, and CBS News New York: Breaking the Stigma.