For the past 11 years Herb Ouida of River Edge has continued to dedicate his life towards helping others. At the same time, New Jersey Monthly has been honoring men and women like Ouida who give back to the state for the past nine. Recently, Ouida was recognized by the magazine as a 2012 Seed of Hope honoree.
The magazine's Seed of Hope award salutes those individuals who have accomplished for outstanding achievements in philanthropy and volunteer service to their communities or to chosen causes. And since the death of son Todd Ouida, the elder Ouida has done just that with the creation of the Todd Ouida Children's Foundation which raises awareness about childhood anxiety and depression.
“Seeds of Hope is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to those who have made a true commitment to helping others ,” Ken Schlager, editor of New Jersey Monthly said.
Todd, who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, struggled for two-and-a-half years as a child with anxiety, stricken with the inability to attend Roosevelt School or leave bed in the morning. Through a supportative family and child pyschologist, the younger Ouida went on to attend River Dell Regional, compete with the Golden Hawks football and wrestling squads and graduate the University of Michigan with a degree in pyschology.
"We're focused on children's mental health because it's something we very much believe in," Ouida said. "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."
The Ouida family founded the Children's Foundation in November 2001 to celebrate Todd's life and triumphs. For the past nine years, the foundation has held a Birthday Bash in Todd's memory with proceeds being donated to local organizations such as Children's Aid and Family Services, Bergen Rainbow Youth, Eva's Village Family Shelter and many others. More than $1.3 million has been distributed in Todd’s name thus far. This past May, the foundation hosted the first annual conference on mental health at Montclair State University.
“Herb is an inspiration,” says Kathleen Mongon, director of development at the Youth Consultation Service (YCS), which receives support from the foundation told NJ Monthly. “He serves as a model on finding encouragement in tragedy and celebrating life.”
Along with Ouida, this year's honorees included Bernardsville's Katie Meyler (More Than Me Foundation), Plainsboro's Tricia Baker (Attitudes in Reverse or A.I.R.), North Brunswick's Abby Hoffman (Elijah’s Promise), and Wayne's Ellen Smith (Hackensack University Medical Center’s Hospital Elder Life Program or HELP).