Donna and Jeff Heck and the team at 33 Forever Inc. are on a mission: to provide hope, help and empowerment to those with mental health issues.
When Donna and Jeff’s family lost 33-year-old daughter Danielle “Dani” Leedy in 2019 after a long battle with chronic depression, friends, family and the Mansfield, Ohio, community rallied around them, sparking the formation of 33 Forever. Now, the nonprofit organization is transforming this support into a $175,000 grant to the new Akron Children’s Hospital Behavioral Health, Mansfield.
Connecting over a common goal
33 Forever was created to honor Dani’s life. It focuses its work on supporting those with mental health issues – specifically depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other image and self-worth issues, including suicidal thoughts. All of its funding comes from donor contributions.
“When we heard Akron Children’s behavioral health center was coming, we were excited. We wanted to be a part of providing additional resources needed so badly in our community, especially in the pediatric area,” said Jeff. “From our own experiences, we learned that mental health challenges often start in the teen years and can go undiagnosed and untreated for way too long. The sooner you identify and treat it – like any health issue – the better the outcomes.”
The Hecks said that supporting the center felt like a “full-circle” moment for their family.
“When Dani first attempted suicide when she was 15, our family had no familiarity with mental health challenges,” said Donna. “She spent a week at Akron Children’s, and it was everything that she needed. The hospital helped us in the beginning, and now it’s here in our community. It felt like the perfect fit for us to support this project.”
Bringing much-needed services to the Mansfield region
Once it’s completed in June 2023, Akron Children’s Behavioral Health, Mansfield will provide youth with moderate to severe mental illness and their families with increased access to psychiatric services, partial hospitalization programs, intensive outpatient programs, outpatient psychological therapy and mental health therapy.
“Jeff, Donna and the staff at 33 Forever have been amazing in helping us make the right connections with other agencies in the Mansfield community to best serve the behavioral health needs of its youth,” said Doug Straight, clinical operations director, psychiatry and psychology at Akron Children’s. “Their commitment and passion for raising awareness about suicide prevention and breaking the stigma associated with mental and behavioral health is unparalleled. We are very thankful for their support.”
And when the doors open, 33 Forever and Dani’s legacy will have a presence in the waiting room.
“We hope it’s a sign of support for people in our community,” said Donna. “It’s letting them know we’re a connector, that we’re here to help them end the stigma of mental health.”
If you or someone you know is thinking about self-harm or has suicidal thoughts please call 988.