The day after Chris Mahan learned a Pasco County teenager had committed suicide, he launched a new project he hoped would help struggling youths.
Mahan and his wife Dee had already been thinking about the emotional challenges teenagers have to contend with. Last year, the Mahans, New Port Richey area residents who are the parents of two young boys, noticed a teenaged neighbor appeared to be cutting herself.
Then Fivay High student Jessica Laney, a different teenager, killed herself Dec. 9. Students at Fivay pointed out that she had been bullied online.
After Jessica’s death, the Mahans launched their new organization Crazy 8 Freedom and started holding events on bullying, and mental health issues some youths face. They also started offering life coaching services for youths.
The Mahans' concern about teen self-harm
hasn’t waned. In January, 12-year-old Miguel Rodriguez committed suicide, and the Mahans listed him as a another reason for their efforts.
“We knew that we had to do something,” Dee said.
Now, they’re expanding their efforts with a planned film festival. The HOPE for the Bay Film and Art Festival is scheduled for Feb. 28-March 1 at Calvary Chapel Worship Center in New Port Richey. It aims to raise awareness of suicide, bullying, homelessness, domestic violence, self-harm, drug abuse and depression.
“I’d like the end result to be that kids and their families leave with a renewed sense of hope and inspiration,” Mahan said.
The festival will feature guest speakers and works of art from the public.
Featured speakers are slated to include: Lee Hirsch, the director of the film Bully; former professional football player Keith McCants; local anti-bullying activist Sarah Ball; anti-bullying hip-hop artist Corey Thornton; Pasco filmmaker Lawrence Feeney; creator of Aqua Teen Hunger Force Matt Maiellaro, and more.
There will also be several workshops and activities.
The organizers are seeking submissions of films, plays, drawings, paintings and other expressions of creativity to spotlight at the festival. They also are looking for sponsors and vendors for the event. They hope to draw participants from the entire Tampa Bay region.
To submit an entry for the festival or learn more about sponsoring it, email Chris Mahan at email@example.com. Kids in 12th grade or younger can submit an entry for free. There is a $20 entry fee for anyone old enough to have graduated high school, and a $35 entry fee for a work by an organization or professional entity. Forms are due by Dec. 30
Find out more about the festival at http://www.hopeforthebay.com/#!home/mainPage.