BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
Spring was truly singing at the Ryan Sang Bipolar Luncheon on May 10, with flowered organdy tablecloths and peonies galore. It was one of the prettiest lunches of the year thus far—and one of the most effective. Spring often partners with hope, and the researchers addressing the over 200 guests in the Drake Hotel Ballroom presented favorable research on early–onset Bipolar Disorder, which has a high mortality rate.
Paul Dalio, who with Spike Lee created his powerful debut film Touched with Fire and is himself bipolar, received the Shining Star Award from Joyce and Dusty Sang, founders of the foundation named in honor of their late son, Ryan Licht Sang. Golfer Michael Wellington, telling his story in numbers—8 hole-in-ones, 61 (his lowest golf score), and 7 mental hospital stays—explained how he combats the stigma of mental illness through Birdies4Bipolar.org.
Joyce Sang has noted that the luncheon gives the Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation a platform to educate the audience with both personal stories as well as cutting edge research being done by world-renowned doctors in the field. She reported:
“The foundation has awarded 35 grants both in research and education, and we have given out 11 Shining Star Awards in both Chicago and Palm Beach. Proof of concept for our grants is that the initiatives have subsequently been awarded government grants totaling $24 million.”
Cynthia Curry, Ilene Greenfield, Marla London, Abby O’Neil and Mamie Walton served as Luncheon Chairs. This year’s Honorary Chairs were Kathy Katz, Leslie Kennedy, Helen Melchior and Amy Morro.
Guests included Mary Ellen Christy, Noren Ungaretti, Julie Harron, Alice Tucker and her daughter Anne, Jamee Rosa, Kitty Freidheim, Tina Wardrop, Karen Strohl, Barbara West Stone, Terry Levy, Kathlyn Maguire, Judy Block, Ethel Gofen, Kent Dauten, Kerma Karoly, Merle Gordon, Sarah Levy Imberman, Christine Vacin, Suzanne Rose, Shaun Block, Elizabeth and Buck Betten, and Christian and Margie Betten Siegrist, who knew Ryan and are active in the Young Friends group, which premiered Touched with Fire in Chicago.
In his opening remarks, Dusty Sang gave credit to Abby O’Neil, who asked, as the organization entered its second decade, what would be their next direction.
“We are targeting change in the next decade with a three-pronged approach: research grants supporting leading-edge science, education grants supporting understanding through knowledge, and breaking the stigma with art exhibitions to show the creative brain of bipolar artists.”
Dr. Christine Hooker, Professor of Psychiatry at Rush and a Ryan Sang Foundation grant recipient, discussed neuroplasticity and the very positive effect of changing neural mechanisms. Other panelists were Dr. Rakesh Karmacharya of Harvard, a specialist in disease signatures for schizophrenia and bipolar; and Dr. Andrew Nierenberg of Massachusetts General Hospital, who works primarily with bipolar depression. Dr. Ellen Frank served as moderator of the working luncheon.
Photo credit: Jennifer Girard Photography