Students, mental health advocates to star in Naperville concert

Updated 4/14/2016 3:55 PM

The stage at the KidsMatter Ignite the Nite benefit concert belongs to the young.

Student performers from six Naperville-area high schools will show off vocal, instrumental and dance solos, duets and group performances during the fifth annual event at 7 p.m. Saturday at Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville.


"We wind up with a really stunning group of young people up on the stage," said Deb Newman, co-founder of Artful IMPACT!, which has a SPECTRUM special needs group performing a musical theater scene during the concert.

Kids will take risks with an improv comedy skit, get their groove on with an Indian dance and show off dual talents as they sing to the tune of their own piano or guitar. Among all the sporting events, debate contests, robotics tournaments and science fairs of the high school world, organizers say the Ignite the Nite concert gives young artists a chance to be the star.

"It's a really great event," said Barbara Yokom, founder and executive director of The School of Performing Arts in Naperville, which is a sponsor of the concert and a frequent partner in KidsMatter initiatives. "It raises a group of people up who sometimes get overlooked."

But even within this youth-focused concert, adults will take the stage for a moment to be recognized for improving kids' health -- in all senses of the word.

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"This year we have the privilege of honoring the partners that we have collaborated with over the past several years to really impact the mental, the emotional and the developmental health of our young people," said IdaLynn Wenhold, executive director of KidsMatter, which works to empower youths to make positive choices and see the possibilities in their lives. "We are championing the causes that mean so much to us."

In big ways and small, Ignite the Nite organizers said mental health keeps coming up. There's stress about the pressures of school and sports. There's emotional anxiety over bullying or cyberbullying. And there's continued concern over substance abuse, especially as the heroin problem rages on in the suburbs.

That's why Wenhold said KidsMatter is honoring nine Naperville-area organizations for their efforts to improve youth mental, developmental and behavioral health.

Linden Oaks Behavioral Health and the DuPage County branch of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, are two such honorees.


Linden Oaks partners with KidsMatter to offer treatment and resources, including free a Mental Health First Aid course in May, said Amit Thaker, director of marketing and business development.

NAMI assists students through its Ending the Silence school program on mental health, which has spread nationally since being developed here nine years ago, Executive Director Angela Adkins said. The program includes a presentation from a trained teen speaker who has gone through the dark days of a mental diagnosis, but has gotten help to feel better.

"It's saving lives. It's changing lives," Adkins said about the program. "It's making people feel more comfortable with coming forward."

Also being recognized for supporting mental, behavioral and developmental health among young people are 360 Youth Services, Artful IMPACT!, The Education Center, Gigi's Playhouse, Little Friends, Samaritan Interfaith Counseling and Turning Pointe Autism Foundation.

General tickets for the performance are $35 for adults and $15 for kids at or (630) 637-7469. A $75 ticket gets adults into a 5:30 p.m. cocktail reception with a performance by Chicago jazz singer Rose Colella, and a $125 ticket also includes an 8:30 p.m. dinner with more music by Colella.

Student performers include Bryn Michaels, Bailey Cochran, Elise Druhan, Kyle Halford, Nora Snyder, Seven Acosta, Tish Krishan, Arushi Krishan, Isabella Isherwood, Michael Isherwood, Lucy Wang and Axel Hageman. Performing groups include Bollywood Rhythms, Chorelles, Main Melody, Spacappella, Empower, SPECTRUM and the Benet Academy Jazz Ensemble.

"KidsMatter and the School of Performing Arts have a very similar mission and vision," Yokom said. "We're all about building kids up through the arts and creating possibilities."

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