HELMS Foundation Looks to Develop Art Therapy Services

By Michael Moliterno for The Business Journal

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Residents with mental health issues, disabilities, or problems with addiction could soon receive a new form of help.

On Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. the Potential Development, a charter school for students with autism, and HELMS Mahoning Valley will partner for their first fundraiser in an effort to bring art therapy services to Mahoning County.

The event will feature a silent auction, food and beverages from local vendors, a cigar truck and an art show and competition.

“This year’s event is going to be very exciting because it’s not only going to be people in our system, it’s going to be anyone in the Mahoning Valley that wants to exhibit art that may be struggling with addiction or a mental health issue,” says Duane Picciarilli, executive director of the Mahoning County Mental Health & Recovery Board.

Proceeds from the event will go to Potential Development and the endowment of the HELMS Foundation, which will be used to hire an art therapist to work with all the agencies in the public system in the county.

“Art is an excellent outlet for people,” Picciarilli says.

HELMS chairwoman, Terri DiGennaro, started the 501(c)(3) nonprofit three years ago in memory of her son, Ryan Giambattista, who died in an accident at age 23.

Giambattista was a street-artist who created works on the walls of abandoned buildings, the sides of trains and even pizza boxes. HELMS was his signature, or tag, says DiGennaro, though no one is sure what it means.

“My son has tagged up this town,” DiGennaro says laughing.

After creating HELMS, DiGennaro contacted Picciarilli about using the nonprofit to raise funds for art therapy, only to be told that no such program existed in Mahoning County.

Instead they took their idea to the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, and started an art show.

But DiGennaro still wanted to find a way to bring art therapy to the county.

“I can’t give you facts and figures, I just know how art affected my house,” she says. “And I know how it has affected the people in the NAMI program and the results have been just wonderful.”

Each year the art show grew, eventually catching the attention of The Soap Gallery in downtown Youngstown, who reached out to DiGennaro and offered to host a fundraiser.

DiGennaro says it’s exactly the kind of event her son would have loved.

“He was a 23-year-old postal worker in Sharon but he was also an artist. He just loved art,” she says.

Tickets are available at the door and online at HelmsMV.org. and at the organization’s Facebook page. Sponsorship opportunities are also available.

Original Story

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