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Supporting men’s mental health through charity and concert

Ryan Goldberg
The Campfire Fund of Florida

Since the founding of The Campfire Fund of Florida, over $30,000 have been raised in support of men’s mental health resources throughout the Pensacola area.

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In November 2021, the Pensacola community lost talented singer-songwriter Elijah Stepherson to suicide. While his death greatly impacted friends, loved ones and the Gulf Coast music community, it also highlighted the fact that men’s mental health is often overlooked.

In the wake of Stepherson’s death came The Campfire Fund of Florida, a newly formed Pensacola-based 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides funding and mental health resources to men in the community.

“We hold events locally to raise awareness about men’s mental health issues and work to remove the stigma attached to men asking for help and seeking counseling,” said Brett Benton, vice president of The Campfire Fund of Florida. “These events allow us to spread the word and raise money.”

During Stepherson’s celebration of life, friends of the late musician suggested holding a large musical event where the community could honor his memory. The event transformed from a celebration of life to a fundraiser, and organizers transformed from a group of friends coping with loss to a non-rofit charity that aims to help as many people as possible.

“It allowed the Campfire Fund to get our message out, letting the community know we exist and what we offer,” Benton said. “Last year, the day after the concert, we had calls from people who needed help finding and paying for therapy.”

“Most important of all, it lets people know that there is someone who cares and is there to help when they are in need,” added Ryan Goldberg, president of the Campfire Fund.

This month will mark the second year the organization has held the Elijah Stepherson Men’s Health Concert to raise money for men's mental health resources in Northwest Florida. The benefit concert will feature music from Jessie Ritter, Allie Bryan, Joey Collins, Shannon Pierce, Nikki Forgione, Justin Colvard, Kyle Wilson, Justin Lee Hester, Ben Loftin, Jay Moody, Brett Benton, and The Victrolas.

“For us originally, it was just a way to remember and honor Elijah,” said Jim Hamilton, a member of The Victrolas and friend of Stepherson’s. “It’s now the most important event of the year for us. There’s a great sense of love and community that happens at this event.”

Hamilton and others close to Stepherson want their friend to be remembered through positive action. Organizers of the Campfire Fund believe that men should never be afraid to ask for help or access to mental health services.

 Brett Benton and Ryan Goldberg showing off their 501(c)3 paperwork
Brett Benton and Ryan Goldberg showing off their 501(c)3 paperwork

“I find it incredibly important to have something there to help people get to where they can see a therapist to work through their problems,” Hamilton said. “This organization gives men an anonymous way of getting that help, and I think that’s important for our society.”

While events like these let the organization bring men’s mental health to the front of people’s minds, it also allows them to open a conversation about how mental health issues have impacted the community. Since the organization’s founding, over $30,000 have been raised in support of men’s mental health resources throughout the community.

Organizers of the concert want attendees to not only have fun, but also to remember that The Campfire Fund of Florida is there for them and those they love.

“Every cent goes to paying for mental health resources, and we have an increasing number of people utilizing the Campfire Fund,” Goldberg said. “Our good friend Jim Hamilton might have said it best, ‘This is the most important thing we’ve ever done, and I wish like hell it never had to happen.’”

“There are people that are willing to help you,” Hamilton added. “There are people that care.”

The Elijah Stepherson Men’s Health Concert will be held April 30 from noon to 9 p.m. at Emerald Republic Brewing in downtown Pensacola.

If you or someone you know needs help facilitating or paying for therapy sessions, visit The Campfire Fund of Florida’s website for information. You can also donate to the organization online.

Copyright 2023 WUWF. To see more, visit WUWF.

Hunter Morrison