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Mental Health Center Pokes Fun at D.C. for Annual Fundraiser

May 10, 2010
Mental heath center pokes fun at D.C. for annual fundraiser | News Date: 05/09/2010 Outlet Full Name: Aurora Sentinel Contact Name: SARA CASTELLANOS News Circulation Audience: 14416 News OCR Text: AURORA | A slew of politicians and celebrities including Tiger Woods and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano sang songs and told jokes at a fundraiser event for the Aurora Mental Health Center on May 7. Well, almost. The health center hosted The Capitol Steps comedy troupe for its annual spring luncheon at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Denver, where comedians dressed up as famous politicians and celebrities and performed skits in a belly laugh-inducing satire. The goal was to raise at least $10,000 to $15,000, part of which will go toward supporting individuals and families who need mental health services but cannot pay for them because they've lost their job or health insurance as a result of the economic downturn. “This year we're focusing on homelessness and families that have lost their health insurance,” said Rachel Nunez, the organization's board member and chair of the event committee. “With The Capitol Steps, hopefully we'll be able to kind of circumvent what the economy has done to nonprofit agencies in this time of need.” The Capitol Steps comedians are a group of former congressional staffers based in Washington, D.C. who travel nationwide performing political satires. The luncheon featured caricatures of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who had apparently arrived to publicize her new book. “Hello to everybody in the great state of Aurora,” said Palin, played by Bari Biern. “My book is a best-seller. I hear there's a whole chapter of my foreign policy experience. On that page, there's all kinds of interesting stuff — for example, did you know that I serve Russian salad dressing at my house?” More than 300 people attended the event, including U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden, and officials from the Aurora Economic Development Council, Arapahoe County Commissioners and Cherry Creek Schools District. The fundraiser was especially important for the Aurora Mental Health Center to host in this troubling economic climate, said Brenda Price, who has been a patient since 2007. Patients sometimes are not able to afford medication or they are in desperate need of basic essentials, so donating money for the benefit of those individuals is crucial, she said. “It's really important, because sometimes people are not able to work, or they need housing, and so it helps to go from point A to point B,” she said. Mental illness is the second leading cause of disability in the U.S., but only seven percent of all health care expenditures are designated for mental health disorders, according to the center. Several Aurora City Council members also attended the event, including Brad Pierce, Barb Cleland, Bob Broom, Bob FitzGerald and Molly Markert. “It's crucial, in times like this, to pull people together,” said Markert, who is also the director of community outreach at Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital. “None of us can give a lot, but if everybody gives a little ... I think in a sense, it's the American spirit — it's what we do to help each other out.”