Yellow Was the Color of Hope on August 6
There were more than 500 yellow race t-shirts and race packets. They were all handed out at the Walk of Hope and 5K Run to Defeat Depression in Southampton on Sunday. The event, around Lake Agawam, raised $275,000 for the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. It was founded by Audrey Gruss in response to her own mother’s severe depression.
Her mother’s name was Hope. “She was on a cocktail of medications,” Audrey Gruss told us after the race. “Most of them are serotonin-based. And those work on only 50 percent of the people.”
Thee were two teen marshals this year. Hayden Lucas is a high school senior in New York City. He leads the new teen task force for the HDRF (Hope for Depression Research Foundation). There was a Teen Race of Hope in May in New York City this year. The foundation is gravely aware of the risk of depression and suicide among young people.
The other teen marshal was Grier Henchy, the 17-year-old daughter of Brooke Shields, who has spoken openly about her struggles with post partum depression. She was one of the first celebrities to go public about the issue.
“The media has finally caught on,” Audrey Gruss told us. “People finally talk about celebrity suicides, at least the media talks about it. Because so many people who need help don’t get it.”
Henchy came to the race with her mom and their new puppy, Tuzi.
Before the race, Hency told the crowd, “It’s really important for every teen to know it is okay to NOT be okay – and to reach out for help.”
The Race of Hope takes place against a backdrop of alarming mental health statistics. Last fall, the Surgeon General declared an emergency in youth mental health. More than one in three high school students reports feeling persistent sadness and hopelessness since 2020, a 40 percent increase since 2009. Suicide has become the second leading cause of death for teens ages 15 to 19.
It was 8:30 and the race/walk was off. It was a serious yet festive event that raises money for innovative research into depression and related mood disorders like anxiety and PTSD.
Anyone pushing a stroller, or intending to walk or run with dogs in tow, had to start in the last corral, so as not to interfere with faster runners. Janna Bullock, who was a silver-level donor and on the Race of Hope Committee, chose to run with four dogs.
There were categories for various ages starting with 13 and going to 75+, but children younger than that were seen running or walking with parents or friends.
The Race of Hope is a USA Track and Field-sanctioned event. There was an overall fastest male finisher, Jordan Daniel. First Prize for the best female time went to Curry Fisher.
Top finishers in several categories got cash prizes of $500, $300 and $175. There was also a prize for the greatest amount raised by an individual. That went to Arthur Dunnam, who raised $32,556 from friends and family for his race.
There was a prize for the largest group of runners. That was won by Jordan Gruss, Audrey Gruss’ step-son, who created a group of 45 people.
Audrey Gruss told us, “It was people who knew Michael Flemming, a businessman with three children who committed suicide last year. I spoke to the wife. She said her husband was reticent to go for help. She felt it was such a good thing to gather like this.”
Kim Heirston, the six-foot-tall art advisor, seems to have been at every HDRF event. She also with a dog as well, seemingly the accessory of the day.
Other notable runners included John Poulson, whose Paulson Family Foundation was a Platinum Donor; Sarah and Andrew Wetenhall, owners of the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, who were Silver Donors, and Peter and Jamee Gregory, who were also Platinum Donors.
Other racers included Roberto Jack Benabib (the writer and producer of such shows as “Weeds”), Caroline Benabib, Elyce Arons, Krista and Alex Bard, Simone Levinson, James and Teresa Remez and their daughters Sofia and Lila, Scott Snyder, Campion Platt, Laura Nicklas, Ana Zaoui, Carolyn Schenker, Allie Schenker, Ari and Lauren Ackerman.
HDRF has been a leader in depression research since 2006, convening top neuroscientists from different universities to work together as a team. Audrey Gruss is particularly enthusiastic about tianeptine, a drug discovered in France in the 1960s and now prescribed widely in Europe, Asia and Latin America for depression that is unresponsive to other medications.
Tianeptine has not been approved for use in the United States, but the HDRF is funding research to see if it might be another way of solving depression for those who do not respond to other treatments. “Initial results are very promising,” she says.