For Athens resident Stephen Cramer, July 1 marks a long-awaited milestone. Finally, Cramer will celebrate the licensed status of what he calls his passion project, Brain Aid, as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit after a year of brainstorming and a lifetime of inspiration.
As the new Executive Director of the organization, Cramer said his background in coordinating festivals for charities provided the skillset for him to form his own nonprofit, and his life experiences gave him the subject matter. Cramer said he has taken himself to the hospital several times for mental health reasons, but his focus shifted during his last visit while living in Detroit.
“I looked at the tattoo on my arm of my mom’s handwriting,” Cramer said. “My mom was my mental health hero. It was just like, ‘I haven’t tried everything.’”
Cramer said his main advice is for individuals to be proactive with their mental health. He said he hopes to provoke both discussion and action with Brain Aid, which was inspired by fundraising initiative Live Aid that used music for philanthropic purposes.
In a similar vein, the upcoming Brain Aid event is an art show and concert at Flicker Bar that combines mindfulness and fun. All art is available for auction and inspired by mental health, and the music will feature several acts including surprise guests. Attendees will have the opportunity to record a positive, one minute video about mental health as a message to others.
“We aim to reduce stigma and promote mental health awareness not just through festivals, but also through social media and advertising,” Cramer said.
Beyond the vision of Cramer is the support of Brain Aid’s Creative Director, Kimberly Sloan.
“I’m the background sort of person,” Sloan said.
Cramer said he met Sloan through Facebook and she responded positively when he asked her to not only volunteer, but serve as a board member for Brain Aid. The two are currently navigating their goals for the organization together.
“Basically, right now she’s the Robin, and I’m the Batman with clinical depression,” Cramer said. “We also have on the board two licensed therapists, a psychologist and an accountant to figure out how we can make as big, positive and unique of an impact as possible.”
Brain Aid’s programming begins July 1 with the art show at 6 p.m.; the $5 concert is at 9:30 p.m. The first full Brain Aid Festival will take place in September. What happens beyond these two events is still up in the air.
“The original goal is to do the festival. Most festivals are annual, but I’m not limiting us to anything right now,” Cramer said.
Cramer and Sloan both said they were interested in making general mental health resources more available in Athens, potentially through a Brain Aid therapy fund.
“I don’t have a lot of experience with nonprofits, so I’m kind of feeling this out,” Sloan said. “Most of my focus would be on subsidizing mental health treatments or assistance.”
No matter what is to come, Cramer said he is excited about what he believes is a great idea.
“I’m not a genius, but this is a genius idea,” Cramer said. “All it needs to be is as big as it can be.”