New Mental Health Advocacy Organization Announces Launch with Kick-Off Fundraising Concert

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Introducing InnaVillage: A new nonprofit on a mission to bolster mental health awareness and create a safe space for teens coping with neurodiversity challenges.  

InnaVillage, a new nonprofit organization which aims to support mental health awareness for neurodiverse teens and young adults across Rockland County, is officially announcing its launch. Created by 23-year-old mental health advocate Niko Rodriguez, the organization is working to help remove the stigma around mental health disorders and drive increased attention, funding, and resources in support of young people facing mental health concerns. Rodriguez, a high-functioning autistic youth who has also been diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety disorder, processing disorder, and intermittent depression, chose the name, InnaVillage, because he believes, “it takes a village to fully support people like me.”

InnaVillage’s long-term goal is to create an inclusive, village-like space where young people with neurodiversity challenges can come together safely to connect and support one another through various activities and interests. Having such a place, Rodriguez explains, will also serve them therapeutically, while introducing them to vital mental health resources and building a community of acceptance and strength. “At InnaVillage, we believe that building relationships and utilizing interests that can help young people explore career paths and feed their souls is crucial to keeping them engaged and motivated to gain important life skills and invest in their own treatment and independence,” he says.

To buy tickets or purchase VIP passes & access to the artist lounge for the kickoff event, visit https://villagefest.eventbrite.com.

To celebrate its launch, InnaVillage is hosting a kick-off event, VillageFest 2021: A Mental Health Fundraiser, on Sunday, November 14, 2021 from 3:00 PM – 11:00 PM EST at GARNER Arts Center at 55 W Railroad Ave in West Haverstraw, NY. A great opportunity to learn more about InnaVillage and its support for mental-health awareness, the event includes a hip-hop concert featuring some 20 artists and headlined by The Hoodies—a rap duo from Ellenville, NY who have achieved Instagram fame and appeared on The Ellen Show. The event also includes a special collaborative performance by B-Xtreme, a dance group featured on America’s Got Talent, and Ballet Rockland. Rodriguez, who himself is a successful rap artist and actor, came up for the idea of this combined dance routine to highlight the fact that “our differences are our strengths.” VillageFest will also feature various food vendors and a DJ as well as presentations from local mental health organizations and speakers sharing important information about area mental health resources and services. All ticket purchases provide a raffle entry for the chance to win a smart TV and other great prizes. A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales and donations will be going to BRIDGES and NAMI.

Hudson’s Mill Tavern will also be providing VillageFest ticket holders with 10% off dinner from 3pm-8pm the day of the event. Reservations are highly suggested.

In addition to VillageFest, InnaVillage plans to host a series of concerts, street fairs, and other community activities throughout the year to raise funds to donate to struggling nonprofit organizations who are already servicing neurodivergent youth. “It is difficult to find treatment and services for this population, and InnaVillage wants to support those who have found ways to assist and motivate youth and their families,” Rodriguez explains.

Eventually, InnaVillage hopes to open a recreation center for the neurodiverse— “all under one roof, with a village-like feel,” says Rodriguez—filled with activities that enhance their well-being and promote their interests while helping them gain skills, acceptance, and independence. Plans include a music studio, art room and gallery, a video/film and radio room for broadcasting, spaces for culinary, gaming, dance, animal therapy, gardening, and basketball, as well as a park-like community room that would facilitate socialization, host speakers, and provide direct assistance to at-risk youth. “I want members of our neurodivergent community to be able to showcase their works and talents to all. I want it to be a safe place without judgement that crosses all cultural populations and where everyone respects one another,” says Rodriguez.

“InnaVillage is excited and grateful to begin this venture in support of all neurodiversities amongst our young people, including Autism, ADHD, substance abuse, suicide, and other mental health struggles,” Rodriguez says. “I want kids to understand that it’s OK not to be OK, and to remember that it takes a village.”

To buy tickets or purchase VIP passes & access to the artist lounge for the kickoff event, visit https://villagefest.eventbrite.com.

Standard tickets through Eventbrite are $30, $100 for VIP and $40 at the door. To find out more email: innavillageest@gmail.com.

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