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The Kim Foundation . . . What’s Our Story

Recently we attended an anti-bullying assembly done by a local group associated with R5 Productions. It touched on many different topics including depression, anxiety, and suicide. It was at a local high school and the energy in the room as the production staff got the assembly started was palpable. The kids were excited by the music, activities, and comical video clips. Certainly as the assembly moved forward, the mood grew more solemn, but the youth still seemed engaged and curious about the information being presented to them. We often do presentations to schools, churches, and community groups, so we find it extremely helpful to observe others in action and see what we can do better/different in our presentations.

One of the key themes throughout the presentation was everyone has a story and you never know what that story is when first encountering someone. Such a simple concept and one we have all learned so many times throughout our lives, but also one that I think is too easily forgotten or overlooked. Someone may be acting one way, but you have no idea what they have been through to cause them to act in such a way or to be feeling the way they are. Have they experienced trauma? Are they suffering from depression? Have they had suicidal thoughts and are simply putting on a smile to get through the day until they can be alone at home tonight? Have they lost someone they loved recently to either death or abandonment? We never have any idea how someone is truly feeling or what they are going through unless we show some compassion and take the time to ask. Not just ask as we’re passing by in the hall and don’t bother to take the time to truly listen to their answer; but ask, and truly care and listen and allow them the chance to tell their story.

As I walked out of the assembly that day I had several thoughts swirling through my head. Certainly the one discussed as a good reminder to take into account that everyone I encounter does have a story, and I want to be better about giving them the chance to tell that story, but also, each of us have the opportunity to own our stories, learn from them, and change the theme of our later chapters and ending. I thought about not only what my own personal story was, but what is the story of the foundation?

The Kim Foundation is in our 15th year and the core theme to our story remains the same – carry out our mission each day to honor Kim’s memory and struggle with mental illness and suicide, while helping to ease the pain of others who share similar experiences. How we tell this story has changed over the years in terms of how that is carried out, but our commitment to the mission has remained constant. In the early stages, the foundation focused on strictly funding organizations offering mental health services, moving toward helping to shape legislation that brought mental health treatment to a more community-based approach. The foundation provided education through a successful radio program called Not Alone, and now has extended that education and awareness work to more than 125 presentations each year to schools, churches, businesses, and organizations, reaching thousands each year. We have more of a public presence as we work to help people have the much needed conversation about mental health and suicide prevention, and continue advocating and providing a voice for all individuals and families impacted by mental illness. Our story continues to grow and we are so excited to see what comes next as we move forward with determination and commitment to our mission.

One of the key ways we have been able to have such success is the development and expansion of key partnerships with organizations throughout our community. Without our trusted partners, we would never be able to accomplish all that we do. Our partners continue to come to us with incredible ideas and insight to improve mental health services and advocacy for members of our community. One of our partners, the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN), has brought together a number of organizations for the second annual School Mental Health Conference – Trauma in Our Schools. This conference will be held on June 10th at Embassy Suites & Convention Center LaVista and will bring together hundreds of educators, counselors, administrators, mental health professionals, and individuals interested in trauma in youth, with experts in the field to talk about suicide prevention and postvention, gang violence, trauma, and a number of other topics throughout the day. Registration is now open – click here to register. I hope to see you at the conference!

Most importantly, I want to thank each of you who have contributed to The Kim Foundation’s story over the last 15 years. I also want to encourage each of you to slow down today and acknowledge someone’s story. Even if they aren’t comfortable sharing it with you yet, take the time to realize they have a story, just as you do, and show a little compassion and understanding.


Julia Hebenstreit, Executive Director of The Kim Foundation

Julia Hebenstreit is the Executive Director of The Kim Foundation. She received her J.D. from Creighton University in 2005, and her BS in Journalism from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2002. She has been with The Kim Foundation since 2011, and prior to that worked for local non-profits doing development, strategic planning, communications, and advancement. She has a passion for helping people and improving lives, and serves on the Executive Committee for Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations, as the 2015 Hill Day State Captain for the state of Nebraska, and as an active member of the Nebraska Suicide Prevention Coalition, the Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, BHECN Advisory Committee, RESPECT Advisory Board, Connections Advisory Board, and the Project Propel Planning Group.