"In 2011, NAMI Mercer impacted the lives of 4,000 people and continued to address the issue of stigma surrounding mental illness. Our outreach programs to schools, colleges, companies, and the community spread the word that mental illness is treatable like any illness,” said NAMI Mercer executive director Sally Osmer, addressing a crowd of 180 guests at the January 21 Night Out with NAMI fundraiser.

The event took place in the Berlind Rehearsal Room at McCarter, following a matinee of the world premiere “The Convert.” Guests indulged in all the fine catering goodies provided by Main Street Catering as they perused possibly the largest silent auction we crashers have seen in some time. The highest paid item went for $600 — two tickets to the Tampa Bay Rays v. the New York Yankees, with round trip transportation. Tony Campbell, dean of students at Rider University, took the podium as auctioneer for the live auction. The highest paid item went for $700 — an iPad and “Steve Jobs” by Walter Erickson.

The evening honored two special people to NAMI. Kay Lasley, who died on February 25, 2011, co-founded NAMI Mercer with Chomy Garces. In the early 1990s the Lasleys and several other families began meeting in each other’s homes to discuss the challenges of helping their loved ones affected by mental illness. These gatherings evolved into NAMI Mercer.

The second honoree was Kay’s daughter, Janet Lasley, who lost a 12-year battle to a rare cancer on May 13, 2010. Lasley was the founder of Lasley Construction of Princeton. In 1998 she co-founded Lasley Brahaney Architecture and Construction with her husband, Marc Brahaney, an architect.

The event raised more than $57,000, which will be dedicated to the general operation of NAMI’s support, education, and outreach programs in greater Mercer County.

Upcoming NAMI events include public education sessions; Family to Family, a program to teach caregivers skills to cope with a family member’s mental illness; W.R.A.P., a support group to help persons with mental or physical illness stay on the path to wellness; NAMI Basics, for parents of children under 19; the NAMI Mercer Walk fundraiser, Saturday, May 5 at ETS; and more. Visit www.namimercer.org for details.

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