The Gray Matters Collective is starting a new mental health fund and is holding a Starry Night Dinner Gala on Nov. 19 to help raise money for it.

The event will start at 5 p.m. that night, at Golden Leaf Banquet & Convention Center, 2902 E. Kimberly Rd., Davenport. The Starry Night admission ticket ($65 each) includes dinner, keynote speaker, organizational speakers, impact stories, music and dancing, raffles, and more.

Haley DeGreve is a 2020 Augustana graduate and founder of The Gray Matters Collective.

“As you know, our mission is to bridge the gap between those struggling with their mental health and the needed professional help,” Haley DeGreve, founder of The Gray Matters Collective, posted this week on social media. “To best accomplish this, we must work to create more opportunities for affordable and accessible therapy in the Quad Cities.

“With the help of QC Counselor and Foster’s Voice, we are creating a fund that will give people the financial support needed for mental health healing and recovery,” she said. All proceeds of the first Starry Night Gala will go towards this fund, with a goal of $40,000.

The Quad Cities area has a higher suicide rate than the national average, yet a shortage of people receiving proper care, DeGreve said. “We must do more to provide hope. It isn’t a perfect plan, but it’s a start — a step along the way.”

Visitors look at Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” at the MoMA exhibit, on March 24, 2004 in Berlin, Germany (Photo Sean Gallup/Getty Images).

Out of all the paintings done by Vincent van Gogh, “Starry Night” (1889) is one that best personifies the artist’s psychiatric symptoms, since it is believed he had bipolar disorder and later died by suicide, she wrote. “May this theme be a reminder of all those we’ve lost to suicide, due to the stigma and inability to receive proper care.”

“With your help, we can prevent suicide. I invite you to join us on November 19 for a night filled with charitable giving, hope, and community as we work towards a healthier and stronger Quad Cities community.”

The Quad Cities Open Network is a sponsor of the first mental health fund gala.

Gray Matters began with a mental health campaign at Augustana College in 2018 led by Haley DeGreve and Kevin Donovan. The two set out to make a statement: mental health is important, and we need to see change.

It is a formal 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to mental health awareness and suicide prevention. There are now Gray Matters chapters at Augie, St. Ambrose University, Scott Community College, and Moline, Rock Island, Geneseo, Orion, Rockridge, AlWood, and Cambridge high schools.

There are Gray Matters chapters at three QC colleges and seven high schools.

“As suicide is the second leading cause of death in ages 10-24 in America, our mission is focused on providing resources, education, & community to young people and those in the ‘gray,'” says the Gray Matters website.

“We believe mental health isn’t a black and white issue. Many get lost in the ‘gray area’ of not knowing what to do, what to say, and how to help someone struggling. We aim to empower people to become mental health advocates and save lives. By educating, building community, and bringing mental health awareness to anyone and everyone who needs it, we are working to create a world without suicide. Because every person matters.”

Keynote speaker at Starry Night

For the Nov. 19 gala, dinner is at 6 p.m., with keynote speaker Jamie Tworkowski starting promptly at 7 p.m. He is the New York Times bestselling author of “If You Feel Too Much” and founded the nonprofit organization To Write Love on Her Arms.

Jamie Tworkowski will be the keynote speaker Nov. 19 at Golden Leaf in Davenport.

A two-time TEDx speaker, Tworkowski has inspired audiences at universities, concerts, and conferences across the United States and as far away as Australia and the United Kingdom, according to his website. Having recently moved on from To Write Love on Her Arms after 15 years, he remains committed to mental health and suicide prevention.

“Jamie is passionate about telling stories that encourage people and sharing what he’s learned over the last decade and a half, both in his surprising journey with TWLOHA and as an individual who struggles with depression,” his bio says.

“Driven by the idea that caring about people has to include caring about the issues that affect people, he invites us to wrestle with what it means to live a compassionate life. More than anything, Jamie believes life is worth living. Speaking allows him to offer hope to someone who might be struggling.”

For tickets to the Starry Night Gala, click HERE.