Dave Grzelak hopes to further understanding of depression and suicide through new fest
At age 17, David Grzelak was attractive, well-liked, athletic and intelligent.
“On the surface, he had everything going for him,” said his father, 44-year-old Dave Grzelak of Powell. “But internally, he started to struggle with anxiety.”
Mental-health challenges can affect anyone, regardless of social or economic status. And one still can be troubled despite making positive, productive choices in life.
“We weren’t ashamed and we weren’t embarrassed by the fight that my son went through,” Dave Grzelak said of the approach he and his wife, Elizabeth, used for helping David, who willingly sought counseling, hospitalization and other treatment. “Eventually, he just ran out of fight.”
David took his own life in March 2018.
In the aftermath, the Grzelaks have helped other individuals and families who reach out to them for advice. And they will help even more by partnering with the inaugural WonderBus Music & Arts Festival on the lawn at CAS (formerly Chemical Abstracts Service) on Saturday and Sunday. The lineup features both local and national acts, including Walk the Moon, the Floorwalkers, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue and Jenny Lewis.
WonderBus has pledged a minimum of $50,000, which will benefit the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. The funds will be used to advance understanding of depression and suicide.
The festival was developed by the Elevation Group, creator of LaureLive fest in Cleveland, which benefits students at the all-girl Laurel School in Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland.
Dave Grzelak became involved through his job as chief strategy officer of The Shipyard, a digital-marketing agency in Columbus, which was brought on as a WonderBus partner. The Shipyard’s employees are working on WonderBus on a pro bono basis.
“This was a perfect avenue in order to support our mental-health initiative in this city,” said Rick Milenthal, chairman and CEO of The Shipyard. Milenthal's wife, Karen, lost her father to suicide in 1984.
“This is a massively important issue, and the music is the backdrop for it,” said Denny Young, president of the Elevation Group. “We’ve had nothing but the warmest reception for this event.”
In addition to the music, there will be food and family-friendly activities.
As part of his WonderBus marketing duties, Grzelak helped craft a message that serves as a first step in assisting loved ones who might be struggling. For example, he promotes the acronym LALALA, which stands for “listen, ask, love, act, link (to resources) and advocate.” OSU will have an interactive LALALA-themed area designed by The Shipyard at the event.
“Many years ago, people didn’t know how to give CPR,” said Grzelak, who will attend WonderBus with his wife. “And then training came out and education and information came out. And now, a great majority of people know how to administer CPR when there is an emergency. (Similarly) when it comes to mental health, so much education is necessary.”
It’s important to help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health by empowering people to speak up, Grzelak added.
“If your child had cancer and was going through chemotherapy, the community would rally around that individual,” he said. “That’s how we should respond when it comes to this topic, as opposed to allowing people to feel alone and keeping this topic out of popular culture or everyday conversation.”
To find help for yourself or for a loved one, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; in a crisis, call 911.