HELMS Foundation 2019 Growth Report

On July 10, 2015, local artist Ryan Giambattista fell from the edge of the P&LE RR Gateway Yard
Building in Struthers and lost his life. Ryan worked as a Sharon, PA postal carrier, but art was his
passion, his way to relax and cope with life’s problems. He brought color and life back to several
blighted buildings and bridges throughout the area as a vibrant street artist, with his signature
tag – HELMS. As Ryan’s family worked to deal with this loss, through the support of family and
friends, they felt a need to move forward and help others as well.

“The generosity was overwhelming and I needed to pay this forward. Myself, my Husband and
our blended family of 5 children, all born and raised in the Mahoning Valley, knew the monies
needed to stay in the community.”
                      – Terri Digennaro, mother of Ryan Giambattista

Working with the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Mahoning County Terri and her husband
Rocco, who sits on the board, began working with the Mahoning Valley chapter of NAMI (the
National Alliance on Mental Illness) to fund art classes at their centers, as well as an art show to
feature the work, as well as work from artists in the community. After funding two years of
programming, in 2018, the SOAP Gallery in Youngstown reached out to offer their venue, to
host the third annual show.

The new team’s first thought was to take advantage of a larger, professional venue by displaying
art from other programs in the local recovery community as well as organizations within the
Mental Health and Recovery Board. But they were surprised to learn these programs simply
don’t exist.

Even though art therapy services are an extremely effective treatment, it isn’t a billable service
for Medicaid, and very often isn’t accessible to those who need it most within the Mahoning
County recovery systems. After some further research, phone calls, and e-mails, Terri learned
that this is a somewhat unique situation. Most other areas have some level of programming
available. Goals shifted, and what was originally intended to be an opportunity to showcase
work became a mission to develop funding for much needed programs and resources. Ryan’s
HELMS tag became an acronym – to Heal, Express, and Learn through All Mediums and Styles –
and his memory became a mission.

The 1st Annual Ryan Giambattista HELMS FOUNDATION Fundraiser was held this past November
with support from organizations throughout the Valley – the Mahoning County Mental Health
and Recovery Board, Potential Development, Drug Free Mahoning Valley, AmeriCorps Vista, the
SOAP Gallery and Next Best Art. Art was displayed from over 50 individuals including work from
Potential Development, the NAMI Art Program, the Purple Cat program in addition to local

The event was a huge success, raising over $20,000. Funds will provide a designated art room at
the Potential Development school in honor of Ryan, in addition to continuing work with several
other agencies to bring art therapy programming into the Mahoning Valley.

“Our focus is academics first and many times due to budget issues we struggle to offer a strong
art program. The HELMS FOUNDATION will provide the necessary art supplies and eventually an
Art Therapist who can make our program even stronger.”
                      – Paul Garchar, Potential Development Executive Director

The Ryan Giambattista HELMS FOUNDATION is a non-profit organization Our mission is a
collaborative effort between various groups and individuals, utilizing art as a tool to assist
individuals struggling with mental health issues, developmental, and physical disabilities. For
more information, please visit www.helmsmv.org, email HelmsMV2018@gmail.com, or follow
us on facebook.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *