Sunday evening, about 200 people gathered in the Great Hall at Heidelberg University for the 10th annual Ray of Hope dinner and awards. Sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties, the event included a dinner, raffles, guest speakers and an awards ceremony.
NAMI president Melanie White presided for the evening. Following the dinner, White honored veterans in attendance and recognized board members of NAMI and Mental Health and Recovery Services, Firelands Counseling staff and representatives from Lakota Schools.
The 2012 Ray of Hope recipient was Josie Setzler, who recently stepped down as director of the local NAMI chapter. A resident of Fremont, Setzler and her sister, Mary Jo Wagner, became members of NAMI in 1998.
"Soon after we joined NAMI, Josie became president. She had a vision of what she thought NAMI could be, but the few volunteers on the board weren't able to get it done," Wagner said.
By 2000, Setzler opened a NAMI office in Fremont and hired a director. For six years, Setzler served as the chapter's president and got some NAMI programs started. She gave talks and led support groups, along with her administrative duties.
More recently, Setzler stepped back into the director's job after her predecessor resigned. She has been involved in crisis intervention training for law enforcement officers and she has made monthly visits to the juvenile centers to give suicide prevention talks.
"With her leadership and dedication, she has taken us to a level where I think, without her, we're going to be fine in the future and carry on our mission. So I feel she is deserving of the Ray of Hope Award," Wagner said.
Setzler thanked her sister for staying involved in NAMI "in parallel" with her and for Wagner's serving as volunteer treasurer. She echoed Wagner's statement of confidence in the soundness of the organization and the people who are carrying on its work.
"Our father got us roped into this together back in 1998, and it hasn't let go of us all these years," Setzler said. "Our director and the people that are working with her ... many of the new friends they have made, and the new initiatives they have started ... They need to tell you more about what they are doing," Setzler said.
Setzler credited White with teaching two sessions of an updated version of the crisis intervention team class for the Sandusky County Sheriff's Department since becoming president this summer.
Another accomplishment was creating a partnership with Terra State Community College. Setzler said personal experiences and relationships are what lead people to discover NAMI, and she emphasized a group effort is needed to make progress in mental health awareness, research, diagnoses, treatment and family support.
"We are in this together," Setzler said. "I feel like a mirror tonight. ... you are looking at me with your own rays of hope."