After the passing of their son Patrick in 2012, Dan and Sue Began established the PBnJ Mental Health Fund to honor and remember their son’s kind and warm spirit. It also allowed the Began’s an opportunity to help others struggling with mental health issues.
The PBnJ Mental Health Fund, or Patrick Began Neenah Joint Schools Fund, supports mental health education for students Pre-K–12th grade in the Neenah Joint School District (NJSD). Across the nation, the need for mental health services is growing and statistics in Wisconsin are especially shocking. The Began family collaborates with Neenah Joint School District staff, and local mental health resources to increase access to care for NJSD students, parents, families and staff.
Dan, Patrick’s dad, has been involved in many mental health boards and committees. He and his wife Sue, along with their daughter Katie, are focused on making a positive impact on the mental health needs of the NJSD community. Along with the PBnJ Mental Health Fund, the Begans have also established the Patrick Began Rocket Memorial Scholarship to provide financial support to an inspiring Neenah High School graduate pursuing a college degree.
“Our continual partnership with the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation (OACF) has been vital to our district. The OACF is committed to personalized service. They have always been available whenever we have a question. Being associated with the OACF has made it possible for a wide range of potential donors to learn about the numerous opportunities there are within the Neenah Joint School District to generously give back.” — Jon Joch, Director of Revenue Enhancements for NJSD
The Began family has committed to continue to fundraise and grow the PBnJ Mental Health Fund. In 2017, the family held their first event, the “In the Name of Love” tennis tournament and dinner, which raised over $80,000. In 2018, they mailed a PBnJ program update letter and received $30,000 in donations to the Fund. This year, daughter Katie has taken over the reins and is planning another event. The Begans hope to make the fund sustainable while continuing to support the current mental health initiatives in the NJSD.
“Providing funds to the NJSD gives our family great satisfaction. Patrick would have been very interested and involved in it if he were here. This is just a small way to continue to honor and remember him.” — Dan Began
The PBnJ Mental Health Fund has granted over $25,000 to the NJSD for projects and programs like sensory tools for middle school students, curriculum for at-risk students and motivational speakers in various schools. A unique grant supported a group of NHS Education Leadership students who created self-care bags for 1,000 students during final exam week. The bags were filled with snacks, mental health and community resources, handwritten notes and more to help alleviate stress and enliven students. The bags were also filled with donations from teachers, staff, parents, and community businesses to show students that the adults in their lives understood the stress of finals week and that acknowledging those feelings was okay. This grant was just one of the many ways the PBnJ Mental Health Fund has supported the NJSD.
“The PBnJ Mental Health Fund has really helped us fill in the gaps where either we are turned down by larger grants or the money we are asking for is not worth writing a large grant. The benefits of being able to support a curriculum; or a lunch and learn for disenfranchised students; all the small and large projects we have been able to fund with the PBnJ Mental Health Fund has been incredible.” — Dr. Mike Altekruse, District Mental Health Coordinator for NJSD
The Neenah Joint School District (NJSD) is in its seventh year of partnering with the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation and continues to establish funds to support the district.