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Wisconsin Dells Events - 4/11/2017

A University of Wisconsin basketball standout will join with teenagers from across the region -including Wisconsin Dells - April 22 in an event designed to tackle a serious issue while still having fun.

Badgers senior forward Nigel Hayes, fresh from both March Madness and the first steps in a possible NBA career, will serve as keynote speaker for the "Building a Better U Teen Summit" that day at Baraboo High School.

Hayes' speech - which will touch on his commitment to excellence as a young person and his success both on the court and in the classroom - will take place at 6 p.m., toward the end of a day full of "fun, friends and food" but designed to help area teens tackle the ever-pressing issue of mental health.

The event is open to teens from across the region, from Portage to Mauston and the Dells the Sauk Prairie, even though its health care-based organizers - Reedsburg Area Medical Center, Sauk Prairie Healthcare, and SSMHealth St. Clare Hospital in partnership with the Sauk County Health Department, Boys and Girls Clubs of West-Central Wisconsin and Hope House of Central Wisconsin - are all located within the county.

"This is important to our community, and we love our neighbors," said Melanie Platt-Gibson of SSMHealth St. Clare Hospital, one of the organizers. "If you can get them down here, we will be happy to have them - we are happy to have anyone with an interest" in youth mental health.

While the day's activities - which include speakers, live music, a disc jockey and several "breakout" discussion sessions - are aimed at teenagers, Hayes' speech is open to the public, with doors opening at 5:30 p.m.

The idea for the event grew out of the most recent results of the needs assessments required of every hospital in the region by the Affordable Care Act. The hospitals' latest assessments indicated that the mental health and wellness of the region's young people needs to be more fully addressed, organizers said.

"Teen suicide is at an all-time high," said Karen DeSanto, executive director of Boys and Girls Clubs of West Central Wisconsin. "We see more and more of our young people, prior to getting into young adulthood, having to deal with social image and self-esteem issues, anger, depression. I see it every day."

As serious a subject as mental health is, DeSantos said the Summit's goal is to combine enjoyment with a potentially valuable learning opportunity.

"We want to talk about mental health, that's the overarching theme," "It's going to be a party with that overarching theme, with a message that they will remember."


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