Son's 9/11 Death Spurs Parents To Tackle Childhood Mental Illness
The Todd Ouida Children's Foundation turns its attention away from fundraising this year, and launches symposium to provide education about childrens' mental health issues
It's been more than 10 years since Todd Ouida's death on Sept. 11, 2001, and for the past decade his family has hosted a fundraiser near his birthday in memory of his life.
This year, however, Todd's parents have opted to replace the fundraiser with a seminar on childrens' mental health issues.
The Todd Ouida Children's Foundation will host the symposium on Wednesday in conjunction with Montclair State University's Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health (CAECMH), Children's Aid and Family Services and West Bergen Mental Healthcare.
"Every year, close to Todd's birthday, we hold a fundraiser in his name and spirit," Herb Ouida said. "This year, instead of holding a fundraiser we decided to have a service with the goal of educating parents, social workers and teachers working with children who suffer from depression, anxiety, as well as autism."
By moving to the conference, the Ouida's hope to put their energy towards providing a direct service over fundraising.
"Raising money is important but it comes from the fact people want to support what we do," Ouida said. "We're focused on children's mental health because it's something we very much believe in. And today with early intervention as a focus, programs such as Zippy's in kindergarten and bringing a focus to those who work in children's mental health from teachers to physicians."
As a child, Todd suffered from anxiety and depression and was unable to attend school from fourth through sixth grade. But with the help of a child psychiatrist, Todd recovered, becoming an honors student at River Dell High School, where he wrestled and played football.
He attended the University of Michigan, earning a degree in psychology. Upon graduation, he got a job with Cantor Fitzgerald, working on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower.
"We're providing a service for a targeted audience and I think Todd's story will be an important part of it," Ouida said. "I'll speak about our personal situation, Todd's experiences and how we've turned September 11 into a hopeful experience. Todd recovered and other children can too."
The day-long conference begins with Ouida speaking about how the Todd Ouida Children's Foundation came into existence. Additional speakers include Sesame Street's Bob McGrath, Rev. Darrell L. Armstrong, CAECMH organizers Gerard Costa and Kaitlin Mulcahy, as well as Pat Stanislaski and Sunday Gustin. The conference concludes with a panel discussion.
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