To the Editors:

On behalf of the entire Wilton Youth Council board, I would like to thank the Wilton Woman’s Club for selecting us to be the beneficiary of this year’s fashion show, held on March 30.

Special thanks to Wilton Woman’s Club presidents Jennifer Toll and Lorraine Winsor; Fashion Show event chairs Kathy Anderson and Trisha King; and the Philanthropy Committee chairs Mariann Bigelow and Dianne deWitt, who all believe in the work we are doing and gave so many hours to make the luncheon a memorable, powerful and beautiful event.

The generosity and support of the Wilton Woman’s Club will enable us to create valuable new educational opportunities that before were not possible. It will help us to further our mission to promote and protect the social, emotional and mental well-being of Wilton’s students by educating and empowering youth, parents and community. This joint initiative, “A Call to Action to Fight Substance Abuse,” is bringing the growing epidemic of addiction to the forefront of our conversation as a community.

As I said that day, standing before the room of over 220 women in the beautiful Rolling Hills Country Club, the event was a tremendous opportunity that honestly wasn’t even in my wildest dreams–not just because of the important programs it will enable us to bring to Wilton, but because it was an opportunity to talk about two things that have an enormous stigma in our society–mental health and addiction.

Stigma is toxic–it breeds silence which fuels fear, secrecy, ignorance and shame. This causes additional pain to a family already suffering, when what families really need is support. What many people don’t understand is that mental illness and addiction are diseases of the brain. Having a mental illness or being addicted doesn’t mean the person is weak or lacks intelligence, and it is not the result of bad parenting!

Awareness and education will empower us all and the WWC-WYC initiative is a big step in destroying stigma.

We are so passionate about our work at Wilton Youth Council because we know that early intervention works. Through awareness, education and resisting denial and stigma we can create a different future. There is reason for great hope because prevention and recovery are absolutely possible.

Thank you, Wilton Woman’s Club and luncheon attendees, for raising funds which we will use to add additional programming to serve our community.

Vanessa Elias
Chairman, Wilton Youth Council