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

The Teen Race Of Hope Draws Over 275 to Hudson River Park to Raise Mental Health Awareness and Funds for Research

L to R: Hayden Lucas, Audrey Gruss, Grier Hammond Henchy, Stacey Griffith

Photo By: Dan Bassini

The Hope for Depression Research Foundation’s (HDRF) inaugural Teen Race of Hope united more than 275 teenagers and their family members, friends, and teachers on Sunday, May 21 at Pier 40, Hudson River Park. The goal of the event was to raise awareness about the crisis in youth mental health in the U.S. and fight the stigma that still surrounds mental health.

The Co-Grand Marshals for the Race were Grier Henchy, the 17-year-old daughter of Brooke Shields, and Hayden Lucas, who was one of the creators of the event. Grier is following in her mother’s advocacy footsteps, as Brooke Shields herself was honored by HDRF with the Hope Award for Depression Advocacy in 2009.

Soul Cycle’s Stacey Griffith, mental health advocate and social media influencer, spun her signature playlist as DJ for the race.  The music reinforced the energy of the crowd as they waited for the Race to begin against the backdrop of New York Harbor, downtown Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.

Grier Henchy said:Today is all about the message of hope and how we can make it safe to talk about mental health.  It’s really important for every teen to know it is okay to not be okay – and to reach out for help.

Hayden Lucas, who also served as the Lead Student Ambassador for the Race, is a junior at Dwight High School.  He came to HDRF with the idea of a Teen Race after he had run in a recent Race of Hope in Southampton, NY.

Lucas said: “HDRF has supported the idea of the Teen Race from the beginning. Thanks to them we are able to run here today to spread awareness and work towards ending the stigma about mental health.”

The state of teen mental health across the nation is urgent. Last year the surgeon general declared a national emergency in teen mental health.  More than one in three high school students reports feeling persistent hopelessness, a 40% increase since 2009.  Suicide has become the second leading cause of death for teens ages 15 to 19.

“These staggering statistics underscore the vital importance of uniting New York’s school communities to better understand the signs of depression and how to talk to teens about it,” said HDRF Executive Director Louisa Benton in opening remarks before the Race.

HDRF Founding Chair Audrey Gruss also took the podium before the Race to acknowledge the teens for their energy and activism on the anti-stigma front.

Gruss said: “The Teen Race of Hope is primed to even be bigger than our Race of Hope and this is because young people know how to make change. All of you, the young people in our community, are going to be the ones who can make a real difference. That is why this race is so important and that is why it’s going to be the most talked about event in New York.”

The Teen Race of Hope is a 5K (3.1 mile) U.S. Track and Field-certified race.  At the starting gun, participants set off to complete the 3.1-mile course starting at Pier 40 Hudson River Park and continuing along the esplanade with beautiful views of the Hudson River. Everyone sported HDRF’s signature sunshine yellow color with matching caps and t-shirts.

The event, which raised $35,000, marked HDRF’s first 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 and to the top fundraisers.  First prize for Best Male Time went to James Knox, and first prize for the Best Female Time went to his mother, Sarah Knox.  The award for Best Costume went to the Sunshine Girls, who wore matching yellow outfits with flower sunglasses.

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 Scott’s Protein Balls.

The Teen Race of Hope was supported by local student teen ambassadors including Hayden Lucas, Lead Student Ambassador, Mia Abramson, Marni Arons, Alva Carlston, Hannah Diker, Sophie Higgins, Abigail Kidd, Tanner Klipstein, Ruby McKillips, Jeremy Negrin, Summer Nelson, Sophia Rossi, Noelle Saldana, Gui Sequiera , Ai Vy Shulman, Andrew Wetenhall, and Amelia Wetenhall.

The Teen Race of Hope was featured in Good Day NY, NY1 News, Style of Sport, and PBS MetroFocus.

Photos by Dan Bassini and Alex Mendoza.