Hundreds of attendees including more than a few famous faces packed into Sony Hall in Times Square on Monday, October 22nd to support Bring Change to Mind’s sixth annual Revels and Revelations Fundraiser. Bring Change to Mind is a nonprofit organization which was co-founded by six-time academy award nominated actress Glenn Close who was compelled to raise awareness about mental health issues and help reduce the stigma around mental illness as she knows all too well the discrimination those with mental conditions face – Close has a sister who suffers from bipolar disorder and a nephew who is schizophrenic.
“I have done this a number of years for Glenn she is just the best. She’s a loyal friend and I love to do this for her, it’ so important and it’s deals with the stigma of mental health and brings it into the open or otherwise people are afraid to ask or people are afraid to help,” said musical superstar Paul Shaffer, who directed the musical direction for the diverse show.
The multi-talented Wayne Brady, who sang, joked and even spoke candidly about his own struggles with depression hosted the evening which was part performance and part conversational. The dimly lit room with Phantom of the Opera-esque candles and a dramatic chandelier made for an intimate evening filled with laughter, tears and everything in between.
Comedian and actor Joel McHale took to the stage and made fun of well, himself. The once popular host of The Soup on E! joked about being fired from all his shows, most recently, his gig on Netflix. While he had the audience laughing, he also told of his own family’s battles with mental illness and the hardships as well as silver linings that come along with it; his wife was diagnosed with depression even before they were married, and his son has autism. The comedian said he tries to be there for them every step of the way, and though his son is different from what he ever could have imagined, he has come to realize he wouldn’t want him any other way and appreciates him for who he is.
From a gospel choir to the cast of the hit Broadway musical Beautiful, the night featured show stopping but also heavy performances. The cast of Beautiful performed a piece honoring their good friend and former cast member who lost his life due to mental illness and each spoke of their regret of having not done more for him.
A high school student came in from across the country to tell the crowd about her experiences during a talk on stage with Glenn Close. She opened up about her battle with anxiety and depression which manifested after she witnessed three close friends getting killed right in front of her. She explained that while her family was very supportive, she wasn’t offered the same amount of help at school and found that there was no one to reach out to or anyone there to explain what she was going through. She is currently attempting to implement a Bring Change to Mind club to her school so that others will feel that they have a safe space to share their own stories and even help others.
In between performances, speeches and three delicious courses, a Sotheby’s auctioneer offered up a private dinner for twelve guests to be prepared by celebrity chef Thomas Keller at Neil Patrick Harris’ apartment with Glenn Close in attendance which went for a cool $90,000 while others raised their paddles to donate additional funds to the organization. All proceeds from the evening will help to end the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness through widely distributed public education materials and programs based on the latest scientific insights that have been measured for effectiveness.
Everyone’s favorite reporter, Anderson Cooper, introduced Robin Williams sons, Zak and Cody, but not before talking about the pain which he faced following his brother’s suicide three decades ago.
Zelda Williams joined the room via video chat to congratulate Whoopi Goldberg on her award with a bit of comedy before Zak and Cody presented their good friend with the second Robin Williams Legacy of Laughter Award. Whoopi had to take a moment as she fought back tears before talking about how much she missed her good friend Robin whom she knew since the beginning of her career and reminisced about how she used to change his kids diapers.
“I think celebrity stories play a part so that people can feel comfortable and know they’re not alone, but it’s really all about connecting with other humans around you and with community and programs and connecting with others in need and that’s what happens with boots on the ground,” said Zak Williams.
“It’s rad to give an award to someone I’ve known my entire life. I’m blessed to be able to do the stuff I do with the organization. Everyday I can contribute, it’s the best.”
Before the night was over Valerie Simpson appeared for a special surprise performance in honor of Whoopi’s contribution to the cause and the choir reappeared for a rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” which had the whole room on their feet, even Glenn Close who eventually joined the group onstage.
Several other notables attended of this entertaining, hearbreaking and hopeful evening included Good Morning America’s Sara Haines, First Lady of New York Chirlane Irene McCray, Marsha Williams, Conor Kennedy, Joshua Bell, Larisa Martinez, Patrick Kennedy, SF Giants CEO Larry Baer and more.