This was my sister, Regina. At 16, she was a vibrant, beautiful girl with her whole life ahead of her. Shortly after the picture on the left was taken, she suffered a mental breakdown. The picture on the right was taken a few weeks before she died. I had taken her out to lunch to celebrate her 42nd birthday. The 25 years between these two pictures tell a profound story.

When I came to North Carolina to start my residency, Regina came to live with me. It was a challenging time for both of us, but we were blessed to find the support we needed at Sanctuary House. Regina thrived there! She made friends, loved the snack bar treats, found a purpose, and felt more complete. Through Sanctuary House, she even found employment at a local fast food restaurant. She looked forward to the day when she could live on her own. I couldn’t have completed my residency without Sanctuary House. I knew she was safe and receiving the help she needed. Regina not only worked but also moved into a group home.

Unfortunately, when her group home closed suddenly, she moved into a different group home. (Sanctuary House added a group home to their program only four years ago, so that was not an option at the time.) There was some unscrupulous behavior and inappropriate referrals made to a less regulated day program where the clients did little but sit around drinking coffee and working on arts and crafts. There were no formal psychosocial rehab programs at this other day program. I didn’t fully understand how to be Regina’s advocate. She seemed happy. However, without the loving and involved staff who knew her, the deterioration in her condition went unnoticed until she needed to be hospitalized. She was stabilized and released but never quite seemed herself. She died suddenly from unclear reasons, although there were indications that she had not been receiving her prescribed medications, which may have led to a seizure event.




Each year, I do a fundraiser dedicated to the life and memory of my sister, Regina, who was taken from this world too soon due to our systemic failure to understand, manage, and treat mental illness. Her story is the reason I live the life I do now. In time, I hope her story becomes the reason many others live the lives they were promised.

This year, I challenge the community to join me and #RiseUpforRegina:

  1. Place a penny in a favorite location in Regina’s memory or a loved one’s honor.
  2. Take a photo of your penny and share it on social media with the hashtag: #RiseUpforRegina.
  3. Make a monetary gift to Sanctuary House
  4. Share this story to your own social media page.

Why pennies? Many are unaware that Abraham Lincoln experienced symptoms of Depression. Despite his battle, Lincoln persevered, refusing to let his mental health define him. In honoring Lincoln’s legacy, let’s lay down a penny to shed light on the silent struggles of millions, emphasizing that mental illness does not diminish one’s worth or potential.



Together, we can make mental health wellness go viral and together, we can make a lasting change. 




A circle with a penny and the words Rise Up for Regina