As of Monday, there were just 50 tickets left for the second-annual Starry Night Gala: a night of fundraising for the Foster Cares Fund.

The event (hosted by Gray Matters Collective and Foster’s Voice) will be Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023 (doors open at 5 p.m.) at QC Waterfront Convention Center, 2021 State St., Bettendorf. The night will include fundraising, raffles, dancing, amazing speakers, and the crowning of the next Mr. Starry Night.

Haley DeGreve (left), leader of Gray Matters Collective, with Kevin and Jaime Atwood, leaders of Foster’s Voice, at the first Starry Night Gala in Davenport in November 2022.

Gray Matters Collective (GMC) founder and CEO Haley DeGreve said there already have been more than 600 tickets sold. They are $85 per person and $600 for a table of 8, available HERE. Reservations are required by end of day Wednesday, Oct. 25.

The Starry Night Gala is raising money for the Foster Cares Fund, which offers financial assistance for people to afford mental health treatment. The first gala event raised $40,238 for Davenport-based QC Counselor, and the fund will expand into Illinois, with another mental health provider, DeGreve said.

“This fund is for anyone and anyone who needs mental health therapy but can’t afford it,” DeGreve, 25, said Monday in a noon talk to the Rock Island Kiwanis Club. “We’re trying to eliminate that barrier.”

“We have so many students who come to us and say, ‘I know I need therapy; I’m struggling but my parents can’t afford it,” she said. “Or my parents can afford it, but it’s not in the budget, it’s not a priority, soi I’ve been told to wait.”

Foster Atwood of East Moline, 19, took his own life in July 2017.

The fund (and Foster’s Voice) is named for Foster Atwood, a 19-year-old United Township grad struggling with depression who took his life on July 21, 2017.

“We imagine a world without stigma towards mental healthcare and where financial burdens are not a barrier to receiving needed counseling services,” says the Foster Cares Fund website. “The support of our Quad Cities businesses and neighbors through the Foster Cares Fund allows QC Counselor to reduce or remove the financial burden for those working on improving and changing their mental health.

“Foster was loved by so many — friends, family, coworkers, customers — and he’s among too many people, young and old, that have died by suicide,” the site says. “Suicide is preventable with evidence-based interventions and support but it still plagues our world. Together, we can change this world and save lives — one person at a time.”

Kevin Hines – one of the nation’s leading suicide-prevention advocates – will be the featured speaker at the second-annual Starry Night Gala.

Kevin Hines with Haley DeGreve.

Hines, 42, is one of only 36 people (less than 1%) to survive the fall from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, in a suicide attempt. He is a best-selling author, global public speaker, and award-winning documentary filmmaker. In the year 2000, a 19-year-old Hines attempted to take his life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, and now travels the world sharing his story of hope, healing, and recovery.

Hines was the keynote speaker for “Can’t Replace You” – a conference Sept. 30, 2021 at the Holiday Inn Ballroom, Rock Island, presented by Foster’s Voice and Gray Matters Collective.

In 2020, DeGreve was on a podcast with Hines, and she said someone who bullied her in middle school watched it and wrote her to apologize.

“I responded and I said, ‘You have to understand, we were in middle school, so give yourself some grace. I forgive you,’” she recalled Monday. “We had a really good conversation.”

Another girl who bullied DeGreve in high school (at Alleman) also reached out and said she’s in law school at University of Iowa, and offered to give GMC free legal guidance.

She works for John Deere and is a 2020 Augustana College alum. GMC had its first meeting on campus in February 2019, during an ice storm that attracted over 300 people.

Rockridge High School students involved in the Gray Matters Collective.

There are now 30 chapters at high schools, colleges and universities in mainly the QC area. DeGreve is talking with libraries and churches to form chapters, as well as at Rock Island Arsenal, for veterans.

“This movement, we feel, belongs everywhere,” she said, noting she is the alumni advisor for the Alleman High chapter, her alma mater. “It’s really for anyone, to have the tools, the resources and the funding to be an advocate.”

They have brought in national mental health training (called QPR) over the past two months, for people to know what to do when someone has a crisis. Over 150 people have been trained in that (which normally costs thousands of dollars but is free through GMC).

“They can then take that to their schools, their workplaces, their gyms, churches — wherever they are — to understand the warning signs and how they can help people around them,” DeGreve said.

The statistics are gut-wrenching (the CDC has estimated the U.S. saw a record number of suicides in 2022, at 49,449 suicide deaths) and one bothers her every moment of every day — that suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people age 10-34 in the U.S.

Kevin Atwood, head of Foster’s Voice, with Haley DeGreve, head of the Gray Matters Collective.

“We have to do more,” DeGreve said Monday. “We have to empower more people who are in the gray area.” By that, she means the general public, people who are not mental health professionals, but can offer help and help prevent any other suicides.

“How are you going to make things better? How are you going to leave a lasting impact to help people around you?” she asked.

“There are not enough resources in the United States for funding mental health and suicide prevention,” DeGreve said.

DeGreve — who has had interest in new GMC chapters in Michigan and Texas — will be one of the speakers at an annual education conference of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Las Vegas Nov. 1-2.

For more information on Gray Matters, click HERE.