Story by Emma McRae. Photos Courtesy of Foundation 45.
In 2011, Frankie Campagna, a Dallas-native and lead singer of the band Specter 45, took his own life. Only 77 days later, the band’s bass guitarist, Adam Carter, did the same. After their deaths, 13 more suicides shook the community.
But the tragedy that rippled through the Deep Ellum would ultimately result in an organization that would return strength to the community. After the loss of his bandmates, drummer Anthony Delabano struggled to find the right therapist that could speak his language as a musician and creative. Hoping to create that space for others in his community, Delabano started Foundation 45. The local non-profit offers a lifeline for musicians, artists, and other creatives, recognizing that this community is often at a higher risk for issues with mental health and addiction. Through focused support groups, art therapy and a substance abuse recovery group, Foundation 45 actively fights the stigma around mental health, promotes living and fosters creativity.
Today, Foundation 45 officially launches a LGBTQIA+ focused group that is free to individuals in the community who are over 18-years-old. Foundation 45 President and Executive Director, Lauren O’Connor, says that the group has been in the works for a while.
“The goal of this is really just to give everyone a safe space in the gay community,” she says. “We wanted to reach out and let them know that this is a safe space, a space for them.”
According to the Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 45 percent of LGBTQIA+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. Foundation 45’s new LGBTQIA+ support group offers a safe environment to discuss issues that group members may be struggling with such as discrimination within the creative community, growing up queer and what to expect when you come out. Joseph Massey – Certified Anger Resolution Therapist (CART) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC) – will be leading the new support group.
“My hope is that we can provide a safe, inclusive and supportive environment that will allow individuals within our community a place to share and discuss their experiences and issues,” Massey said in a press release.
The new support group is only the most recent stride in Foundation 45’s growth. Since we last covered Foundation 45 in 2019, the nonprofit has added a support group dedicated to women of color as well as Remix Recovery, a substance-recovery program that helps members find ways to stay involved in the art and music scene while sober.
Along with weekly support groups on Sundays, Monday and Thursdays, Foundation 45 also offers a free art therapy class on the last Saturday of each month led by Dallas Art Therapy. During art therapy, a trained art therapist works with group members to dive into the underlying messages communicated through art with the goal of aiding the healing process.
The wide array of services offered by Foundation 45 reflects the organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. O’Connor says the focused support groups allow more members of the community to receive the support they need.
“We want to make sure that all of our programming speaks to every aspect of our community,” she says.
O’Connor hopes the new LGBTQIA+ focused support group will help more individuals discover Foundation 45 and a safe space to find support. She says that the new group will help “round out current programming” while the organization hopes to expand past Deep Ellum to other states and even to a potential, local space dedicated specifically to Foundation 45.
“I want what we have currently have in Dallas to be in every state,” O’Connor says. “The reason why is that so many folks in different states are like ‘I wish I had this,’ so that’s the main goal, to go national but still on a smaller, community scale.
Though O’Connor has volunteered with Foundation 45 since the beginning, she took up her leadership role in 2018 when founder Anthony Delabano stepped down. Originally from Delaware, O’Connor says she has been losing friends since she was 17 to the opioid crisis and suicide. When she found Foundation 45, she wondered where a community like this had been.
“It was kind of like one of those magic moments where I finally understood my purpose,” O’Connor said. “So when Anthony stepped down, I stepped into his place because it just means so much to me and I’m so passionate about it.”
O’Connor and Foundation 45 are only one example of a Deep Ellum nonprofit with female leadership. Many of the nonprofits in Deep Ellum that are dedicated to serving locals and maintaining the neighborhood’s vibrant culture are also led by women. The seven woman-led nonprofits, including the Deep Ellum Community Association and Deep Ellum 100, are helping the community thrive.
“It’s really profound that all of us have come together and worked together for the common goal of helping our community,” O’Connor says.
Foundation 45’s new LGBTQIA+ group, like their other support groups, is open to anyone in the community over 18-years-old. The new group starts this evening and will continue each Tuesday from 7pm to 8pm. Information to join this group, as well as other support groups and programs, is available at foundation45.org. All groups are led by licensed professional counselors, and O’Connor says individuals are encouraged to bring a friend or family member to make starting a new group easier.
Foundation 45 is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that funds counseling services for mental health, addiction and suicide survivors. In addition to providing services, it works to break the stigma surrounding these topics. The organization’s goal is to serve the Dallas/Fort Worth creative community by providing free top-tier mental health and recovery services. You can learn more about Foundation 45 on their website at foundation45.org.