NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — A sold-out 2nd Annual Be Great For Nate Fundraising Gala was held at the Ochre Court mansion in Newport on Friday.
The fundraiser event consisting of drinks, dinner, dancing, silent auction, and live auction was paired with a more novel cause: youth suicide and mental health awareness.
In 2018, the Be Great For Nate non-profit organization was born from a group of high school students in Portsmouth after the suicide of 15-year-old Nathan Bruno. He had no history of mental illness and did not appear to be at risk of taking his own life.
After Bruno’s death, Be Great For Nate and the Every Student Initiative set a course for change and to help combat a growing problem.
Nathan’s dad, Rick Bruno teamed up with Steven Peterson to lead and mold the non-profit, and The Every Student Initiative quickly became the first program of Be Great For Nate.
The Every Student Initiative focused on practical ways to help students with mental health challenges and tactics and programs for the educators to support them.
In 2020, the student-led group was able to successfully pass the Nathan Bruno and Jason Flatt Act, with the help of local politicians who understood their cause.
The legislation is modeled around a law in place in several other states after a 16-year-old from Nashville, Jason Flatt, took his own life.
The act would require teachers, students, and all school personnel to be trained on suicide awareness and prevention, and also establish a conflict resolution process between faculty and the student body.
It was passed and signed by Gov. Dan McKee in early 2021. The bill had the support of Rep. Terri Cortvriend, Sen. James Seveney, and Sen. Dawn Euer, who were also in attendance and spoke at the gala.
At the gala, McKee spoke about his commitment to the cause and held a ceremonial Nathan Bruno and Jason Flatt Act bill signing.
“We are thrilled to see this law pass in order to educate many, bring awareness, and save lives in honor of two amazing young boys Jason Flatt and my son, Nathan Bruno,” Rick Bruno said. “Tonight’s gala is a great way for the community to get together in support of this important cause and also supports our values of making and building connections with each other as a community.”
Be Great for Nate has trained hundreds of young people in suicide awareness and mental health strategies.
Anyone interested in learning more or supporting the organization can do so by visiting the foundation’s website.