7.8.12 /

YOU NEVER CAN TELL BY JOE CONRAD

Back in the late 90s, the Denver Center Theatre Company was a Cactus client. Because of our partnership, we were all able to attend the Company's world-class productions. Being a lover of traditional theatre, I saw this as a pro bono client with benefits and one we loved.

There were many amazing plays, but the one that stands out is a play written by George Bernard Shaw called, "You Never Can Tell." I was, of course, very familiar with the saying and had used it many times. However, I never truly appreciated either the origin of the phrase or the absolute truth of its meaning until after seeing this wonderful play. A relevant and interesting side note, Shaw was a theatre critic before he started writing plays and was seen by many as far too critical of everything he reviewed. When chided with "do you think you can do better?" he responded with a "hell yes" and went on to a legendary career as one of the world's greatest playwrights.

But it is absolutely true that you never know how things are going to turn out. I am amazed at how many times I have to just shake my head and remind myself that you just don't know how many twists and turns something can make along your journey. So I'd like to share a recent "You Never Can Tell" story that just went down here at Cactus.

In 2008, as a part of our partnership with the Colorado of Department of Public Health and Environment, I was introduced to Jarrod Hindman, Director of the Office of Suicide Prevention. He was running an entirely underfunded program to address the critically important issue of suicide in Colorado. The rate in the state is alarmingly high for both youth and adults, particularly working-age men. We agreed to do some pro bono work for the program. Through that process we learned a great deal about this issue and were introduced to a number of other organizations working on the front lines. Groups like the Carson J Spencer Foundation, a local non-profit dedicated to suicide prevention. We developed a comprehensive public education and social marketing plan while conducting some very insightful and thrifty research studies.

Planning with no budget is one thing, but implementing an aggressive public awareness campaign is another. But low and behold, the social marketing gods came through and the Office of Suicide Prevention landed a federal grant for a three-year, $500,000 campaign. Cactus competed for the contract in a competitive, state-bid process and was awarded the job in late 2009. We were elated. Finally, we were going to be able to implement our plan and create something powerful.

However, a week after the contract was signed, we were informed that due to state budget cuts the entire grant and contract was cancelled. We were left with nothing but a really great plan and zero budget to implement it. After griping and sulking for a week or two, we decided to carry on and implement whatever we could of the plan on our own, and that's what we have been doing for the past 18 months. We kept the fire burning and the hope alive to launch the first-ever suicide prevention campaign targeting working-age men.

Just before the holidays, I was having lunch with a good friend. When I shared this story, he told me about a Foundation he knew that was looking to invest in a suicide prevention program. We jumped on the opportunity and submitted a grant proposal on behalf of a private/public/non-profit partnership between Cactus, Office of Suicide Prevention at CDPHE and the Carson J Spencer Foundation. And just last week, we were informed that we have received a grant to get the ball rolling and build the foundational components of a suicide prevention campaign in Colorado and beyond. Thank you to the Anschutz Foundation for reviving this important campaign.

You never can tell.

Posted on the Denver Egotist

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