Contact: Jamie Leszczynski
The Lobdell Family Presents the Largest Gift on CNY Record, to Memorialize Rusty Lobdell who died by suicide after struggling with Mental Illness
Alongside his younger sister Amy, Vinny Lobdell took the podium at the sold-out Oswego Health Foundation Gala on Saturday night announcing his family's gift of a $1 Million dollar donation to be put towards the The Lakeview Center for Mental Health & Wellness. The announcement was made after an emotional video featuring the Lobdell family (Vinny, Vince, Nancy and Amy) as they told the story of Rusty Lobdell, their brother and son who died by suicide in 1995 at the age of 19 after struggling with Schizophrenia.
“Our family is honored to work with Oswego Health and share our family’s story in hopes that other people affected by mental illness can get the help they so need in our community. We know that one-fifth of the US population lives with some sort of mental disorder, and it often starts at a young age. 75% manifest before the age of 24 and 50% start to show signs before the age of 14. When you add in the family members, we’re talking millions of Americans. I believe every one of us in this room has probably been touched in some way by mental illness.” Said Lobdell.
Michael Backus, incoming President & CEO at Oswego Health, said that the Lobdell family’s decision to not just donate money, but also speak out about their son’s struggle, will help reduce the stigma of mental illness in the rural community. “To have a local family that’s not only been extraordinarily successful from a business perspective but has been directly touched through Rusty ... will really go a long way towards reinforcing the importance of what we do every day,” Backus said.
The Lobdell’s toured the Lakeview Center and were moved by how different it was from places they brought Rusty when he was ill. “Lakeview was state of the art, bright and full of hope. One of the most challenging things a family can do is find good care for a loved one when they are struggling…. We had wished that Lakeview was here when our brother was still with us. We knew we needed to do all in our power to ensure the entire CNY community and beyond knew about it,” said Vinny
The Lakeview Center, which has 32 inpatient mental health beds and provides outpatient mental health services, opened last year. Located in Oswego, it also has outpatient services and a primary care office. Oswego Health is a stand-alone nonprofit health system.
Jamie Leszczynski, Communications Director at Oswego Health, said the family’s gift will be powerful, and not just because of the money. “The fact that they are willing to attach their name and their son’s name to this is huge,” said Leszczynski, whose brother died by suicide 20 years ago. “It’s huge, because it personalizes it and it reduces those stigmas. It does not matter what your income level is, your ethnicity, where you grew up…Talking about it is part of how you save lives” she said.