“You can Imagine...”
The Mission of the Avielle Foundation is to prevent violence and build compassion through neuroscience research, community engagement, and education. The Foundation will do so by directing resources to support:
* Breakthrough neuroscience research, bridging behavioral and biochemical sciences, and making the neurosciences a prestigious and lucrative life endeavor.
* Community engagement and education initiatives that empower youth, parents, teachers, health care providers, and law enforcement – the everyday citizen – to advocate for brain health in themselves and others.
Avielle Rose Richman was, at the time, our only daughter and one of 26 children and educators tragically murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT on December 14, 2012. My wife Jennifer and I are infinitely heart broken. In the three years since the murder of our beautiful six year old daughter our heartbreak has been repeated with over 140 school shootings in the United States, not to mention the daily occurrences of homicide and suicide on our streets and in our homes. Violence, in its myriad forms, is an epidemic that plagues our country. We miss Avielle more every day, and like so many of you, we want to bring about changes to stop this epidemic of violence. We want to prevent tragedies like these from happening to any community — ever again.
The Avielle Foundation has been created in honor of our loving daughter — along with all the others who fall victim to violence — to foster an understanding of what leads someone to engage in harmful behavior, the risk factors, and conversely to identify and engender protective factors that lead away from violence and toward compassion, kindness, connection and community. We’re working closely with world leaders in two vital areas: Brain health research and community building.
Objective #1: Research – Making the Invisible Visible
Brain science is the least explored of all our sciences. As a result there is shame, fear, and stigma associated with the invisible diseases of the brain and people often fail to advocate for themselves or their loved ones when it comes to “mental” illnesses. The fact is, the brain is just another organ and we need to move away from this invisible world of diagnosis based on symptoms and syndromes and toward a visible world of diagnosis based on measurable pathologies. It is the belief of the Avielle Foundation we must understand the biological and environmental risk factors that impact the brain, leading to violence to self or others, and the protective factors that engender compassion and connection. This will give people hope for themselves and their loved ones. It will eliminate the fear of a label, and the idea that there is a character flaw in themselves or their loved ones. Once a deeper understanding has been established, we can apply these insights to educate the everyday citizen about how to identify the signs and symptoms of someone in or nearing a brain health crises and how to responsibly advocate for those at risk of violent behaviors. We must take action to ensure what happened to Avielle does not happen again – we must stop our epidemic of violence. Ultimately, this will be done by making the invisible visible.
Objective #2: Community Engagement and Education – Knowledge is Power and Empowering
Jennifer and I instilled an open-minded, open-hearted philosophy in Avielle because we know a strong community is one where every member belongs and is a valuable contributor —regardless of ethnicity, beliefs, political views, lifestyle, economics, or social ideologies. In such communities, individuals don’t feel ostracized, stigmatized, bullied, or alienated, and the propensity to act in desperate, destructive, or violent ways is diminished or eliminated. We are helping to build communities where all individuals are included, given a contributing role, and kept safe. Most importantly we are educating ourselves and others with our brain health findings in order to dispel fears of seeking help and to facilitate rational and effective treatment interventions. With the proper brain health knowledge and tools, we can develop and put into practice innovative programs to facilitate appropriate preventative and interventional strategies such as counseling, education, and novel therapeutics that result in connection and compassion. We feel that knowledge is not just power, it is empowering.