May Non-Profit: The SHINE Initiative

By Dani Babineau

The good thing about supporting small and local non-profits is that, sometimes, you don’t have to look very far at all to find a good one. The SHINE Initiative, our non-profit for May, is HQ’d very much within walking distance from the brewery - less than a half mile away!

And we’re proud to call them our neighbors. The SHINE Initiative works diligently to make sure that mental illness in children and young adults is a mainstream health issue. This work includes developing funding and strategic alliances to improve public awareness and understanding of mental health issues, research, and treatment.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which makes SHINE the perfect non-profit for us to support this month. Throughout May, 100% of our tips will be collected and donated in support of SHINE.

To learn more about this organization and the work they do, we spoke with Fred Kaelin, SHINE’s executive director. Read on to learn why the work they do matters and how your donations can help.

What’s the mission of The SHINE Initiative and what does the organization do?

The SHINE Initiative’s mission is to combat discrimination and to destigmatize mental health conditions in children and young adults. We are an awareness and education organization that works predominantly in schools to normalize talking about mental health directly with you in order to reduce stigma and to help youth know where to turn for help.

We help support ongoing groups led by youth so that the focus is local and highlights the importance of youth voice. We also work with educators, parents, and community groups, and offer Youth Mental Health First Aid training as well.

Why is The SHINE Initiative's mission important to the Worcester area?

Our mission is important to the Worcester area for a number of reasons. First, this generation of young people go to the ER for critical bouts of anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses more than any other ever, and suicide is now the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15-24. Fifty percent of mental illnesses are present by the age of 14 and 75% by 24.

For a variety of reasons external to them, Worcester-area providers are often overwhelmed; once someone recognizes they need help, it can take 3-6 months to be seen. The SHINE Initiative helps to fill that gap by offering social connections and “real talk” around mental health. We also find that many area educators are desperate for this kind of additional partnership to support their students. We began working with the Worcester Public Schools for the first time this past fall and it has gone so well that we are expanding for the coming school year.   

What has The SHINE Initiative accomplished that you’re most proud of?

We’re just so proud of our youth leaders who stand up to talk about their realities and often to educate the adults around them. They also come up with creative ways to reach out to their peers in their home communities to let them know they aren’t alone and that it’s ok not to be ok. They help plan and schedule stress-relief, talks, and activities that send that message and that also help take the edge off all the pressures young people are under today. We’re definitely most proud of our youth leaders.

How might donations from Redemption Rock customers help The SHINE Initiative in the future?

No matter how many schools we go to or how much we do with young people, we are always asked for more. Donations to us will help us go to more schools (we have a waitlist for this coming fall!) to both reduce stigma and prevent the worse outcomes for youth who may be struggling in silence because of it. We are also about to launch a new mobile website with a student forum and an app to support mental health that is specific for teens. Donations will help us to get those resources directly into young people’s hands to help them feel more connected and supported, and to eventually expand its functions to evolve with young people.

Does The SHINE Initiative have any upcoming events that people should know about?

We’re THRILLED to have our first SHINE Young Professionals Network (SYPN) event here at Redemption Rock on June 6! Event is free but registration is required:

And our annual Gala is on World Mental Health Day - October 10, 2019. Tickets will be available soon (follow us on Facebook or Instagram for updates), and we also are looking for a few last committee volunteers (email