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Hope for Depression Research Foundation
Hayden Lucas, Audrey Gruss, Grier Henchy, Stacey Griffith

Hayden Lucas, Audrey Gruss, Grier Henchy, Stacey Griffith


Hope for Depression Research Foundation
Honors Mental Health Awareness Month with 

 Inaugural NYC Teen Race of Hope 

The Teen Race of Hope Draws Over 275 to Hudson River Park to Raise Mental Health Awareness and Funds for Research


(Manhattan, NY – May 24, 2023) – The Hope for Depression Research Foundation’s (HDRF) inaugural Teen Race of Hope united more than 275 teenagers and their family members, friends, and teachers on Sunday, May 21st at Pier 40, Hudson River Park.    The goal of the event was to raise awareness about the crisis in youth mental health in the U.S. and fight the stigma that still surrounds mental health.   


The Co-Grand Marshals for the Race were Grier Henchy, the 16-year-old daughter of Brooke Shields, and Hayden Lucas, who was one of the creators of the event.  Grier is following in her mother’s advocacy footsteps, as Brooke Shields herself was honored by HDRF with the Hope Award for Depression Advocacy in 2009. 


Soul Cycle’s Stacey Griffith, mental health advocate and social media influencer, spun her signature playlist as DJ for the race.  The music reinforced the energy of the crowd as they waited for the Race to begin against the backdrop of New York Harbor, downtown Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.  


Grier Henchy said: “Today is all about the message of hope and how we can make it safe to talk about mental health.  It’s really important for every teen to know it is okay to not be okay - and to reach out for help.


Hayden Lucas, who also served as the Chief Student Ambassador for the Race, is a junior at Dwight High School.  He came to HDRF with the idea of a Teen Race after he had run in a recent Race of Hope in Southampton, NY.  


Lucas said: “HDRF has supported the idea of the Teen Race from the beginning. Thanks to them we are able to run here today to spread awareness and work towards ending the stigma about mental health.” 


The state of teen mental health across the nation is urgent.  Last year the surgeon general declared a national emergency in teen mental health.  More than one in three high school students reports feeling persistent hopelessness, a 40% increase since 2009.  Suicide has become the second leading cause of death for teens ages 15 to 19.   


“These staggering statistics underscore the vital importance of uniting New York’s school communities to better understand the signs of depression and how to talk to teens about it,” said HDRF Executive Director Louisa Benton in opening remarks before the Race.   


HDRF Founding Chair Audrey Gruss also took the podium before the Race to acknowledge the teens for their energy and activism on the anti-stigma front. 


Gruss said: “The Teen Race of Hope is primed to even be bigger than our Race of Hope and this is because young people know how to make change. All of you, the young people in our community, are going to be the ones who can make a real difference. That is why this race is so important and that is why it’s going to be the most talked about event in New York.” 


The Teen Race of Hope is a 5K (3.1 mile) U.S. Track and Field-certified race.  At the starting gun, participants set off to complete the 3.1-mile course starting at Pier 40 Hudson River Park and continuing along the esplanade with beautiful views of the Hudson River.  Everyone sported HDRF’s signature sunshine yellow color with matching caps and t-shirts. 


The event, which raised $35,000, marked HDRF’s first Race of Hope in New York City and the first one to be youth focused. HDRF also has held an annual Race of Hope in Palm Beach, FL and Southampton, NY. 


At the close of the Race, Audrey Gruss presented awards to the top finishers and to the top fundraisers.  First prize for Best Male Time went to James Knox, and first prize for the Best Female Time went to his mother, Sarah Knox.  The award for Top Fundraising Team went to the Dwight School team The award for Best Costume went to the Sunshine Girls, who wore matching yellow outfits with flower sunglasses. 


Second place for Best Male Time went to Cesar Hernandez and second place for the Best Female Time went to Luisa Cavalli, third place for Best Male Time went to Isaac Jeffrey, and third place for the Best Female Time went to Dawn Brewer.


All Race participants received a signature yellow shirt, cap and finisher medal. The first, second, and third place winners received medals based on the winnings. The costume contest that was held during the race encouraged all participants and supporters to show up in their best yellow ensemble, with the winner Sunshine Girls taking home a $100 bank card.  


The Teen Race of Hope was supported by local student teen ambassadors including Hayden Lucas, Chief Student Ambassador, Mia Abramson, Marni Arons, Alva Carlston, Hannah Diker, Sophie Higgins, Abigail Kidd, Tanner Klipstein, Ruby McKillips, Jeremy Negrin, Summer Nelson, Sophia Rossi, Noelle Saldana, Gui Sequiera , Ai Vy Shulman, Andrew Wetenhall, Amelia Wetenhall. 


HDRF has been a leader in research since 2006, convening top brain researchers from different universities to pool data and expertise to find new and better treatments for anxiety and depression.     HDRF also works to raise awareness of depression as a medical illness and to educate the public about the facts of depression and remove the stigma that still surrounds it.




HDRF was founded in 2006 by philanthropist Audrey Gruss in memory of her mother Hope, who struggled with clinical depression. Today, HDRF is the leading nonprofit organization focused solely on advanced depression research into new and better treatments for the illness. The World Health Organization has declared depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide, and yet conventional medications today are outdated and do not fully work for 50% of patients. The mission of the HDRF is to spur innovative neuroscience research into the origins, medical diagnosis, new treatments, and prevention of depression and its related mood disorders - bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder, and suicide. To date, HDRF has provided more than $50 million through over 200 grants for breakthrough depression research that promises to transform the way depression is viewed, diagnosed, treated and prevented. Currently, HDRF has a potential new class of medication in pilot clinical trials at Mount Sinai Medical Center, Columbia University, and Stanford University. HDRF is also funding clinical trials into other novel therapeutics and diagnostic tests at Johns Hopkins, University of San Diego, and the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


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