Foundation 45 gives the North Texas creative community free mental health services

Content Warning: Article mentions suicide and addiction.

A wall with items on it for a silent auction

Foundation 45’s silent auction at Thunderbird Station. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Dallas nonprofit Foundation 45 hosted their first fundraising event in three years on Saturday at Thunderbird Station in Deep Ellum, featuring a silent auction with donations from the community. DJs for the day included DJ Mr. RID,  DJ Wild In the Streets,  DJ Bunny,  DJ Skinny Loggins and DJ Gabe Mendoza.

The organization started in 2014 as a suicide prevention group by Anthony Delabano from local band Spector 45 after his bandmates Frankie Campagna and Adam Carter died from suicide. Zandra Ellis was the first counselor of Foundation 45.

In 2016, Foundation 45 officially became a 501 (c)(3) and has been offering free mental health and addiction services to the North Texas community.

Two women talking and a camera person

Foundation 45 President & Executive Director Lauren O’Connor (left) walking around with a camera person showing the various facets of the event. Volunteer Priscilla Nichols (middle) helped work the event. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A person deejaying

DJ Wild In the Streets playing at Thunderbird Station in Deep Ellum. Photo: Jessica Waffles

“[Delabano] founded this organization to give people help free of cost without judgement,” current Foundation 45 President and Executive Director Lauren O’Connor said in an interview at the event.

O’Connor has been head of the foundation since 2018. She has been in nonprofit work for over 12 years now, including working with Girls Rock Dallas.

“My focus [in Foundation 45] is with programming,” O’Connor said. “There used to be just 1-2 groups a week, and no we have 6 groups a week, with a goal of groups 7 times a week. Our counselors are licensed professional counselors with masters degrees, and some of them have been on both sides of the table when it comes to addiction and depression. We want that high level of care to people that don’t have access in the creative community and beyond.”

Clothing and framed art on a wall

Donations from Good Records, House of Blues and more for the Foundation 45 silent auction. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Envelopes that say "Dos Equis Pavilion" and concert tickets on a wall

Dos Equis Pavilion and Weezer / Modest Mouse tickets were hot items at the silent auction. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Among the new groups, there is a virtual LGBTQIA+ group led by Joseph Massey on Tuesdays – giving those who need help in both the city and rural areas a chance to meet with people who can relate to their personal struggles faced in their community.

“It’s important we have someone from the LGBTQIA+ community leading the group,” O’Connor said. “People that join the virtual group don’t even have to put their real name or activate their video cameras. We are a safe space to have difficult conversations.”

A table with merchandise and stickers

The table with Foundation 45 merchandise and pamphlets. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A woman smiling with a drink

KXT / KERA’s own Nilufer Arsala stopped in to support Foundation 45. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Foundation 45 caters to the creative community, but is open to anyone looking for help.

“Over 75% of the people we serve identify as artists, musicians, or working in the service industry,” O’Connor said. “We like to have events like this fundraiser for people to meet some of our counselors and become more comfortable with the idea of coming to group. You don’t have to say anything in group if you attend. people are more than welcome to just listen. In group therapy, attendees often help each other.”

With suicide rates and substance abuse showing a spike in recent years, the organization is adamant on being here to help.

T-shirts on a wall

Everything Ellum donation bundles of items by size for the Foundation 45 silent auction. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A framed poster on a wall

A signed Dale Watson Hatch Show frames poster at the silent auction. Photo: Jessica Waffles

“We want to do bigger events and bring bigger awareness,” O’Connor said. “Get more funding and make sure we can pay our counselors. My job is to create programs and help the counselors to make sure people get focused help on the issues that matter to them.”

Foundation 45 is hosting an event called “Narcan Happy Hour” on May 4 at Three Links 6pm-8pm. The purpose of the event is to open up the conversation regarding the opiod crisis and how if impacts our community. There will be free Narcan on site for people to take home, as well as educational material.

“We’re seeing overdoses in the scene more,” O’Connor said. “We want to bring the community together and do events that make a difference on top of our services.”

T-shirts and vinyl records on the wall

The State Fair Records bundle at the silent auction included items from Joshua Ray Walker, The 40 Acre Mule and more. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A woman smiling

DJ Wild In the Streets smiling from behind the decks. Photo: Jessica Waffles

On October 21, they will also host their event “Art of the Guitar” at Life in Deep Ellum, which will include the auction of 45 guitars altered by local artists and painters. The organization is still accepting guitar donations – acoustic, electric, bass are all accepted (and they do not have to be functioning instruments). In 2016, this event raised over $15,000 for Foundation 45.

“We want people to know that we are here to help. We understand it’s scary,” O’Connor said. “Come to one of our events and get to know us. We are a grassroots and DIY family.”

Find the Foundation 45 group schedule below (in-person groups meet at the Deep Ellum Community Center, except Art Therapy):

Find more information on the Foundation 45 website.

A framed art piece with pressed florals

The Unhinged Flora private workshop was a popular item in the silent auction for Foundation 45. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Djs digging through a records crate

DJ Bunny bounced back and forth on the decks during their 2-hour set at Thunderbird Station. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Jessica Waffles is a freelance photographer/videographer and regular contributor to KXT. 

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