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The Yankee Express

The Yellow Tulip Project – first in-person event at Open Sky marks spring and promise of hope

Yellow Tulips in honor of the Yellow Tulip Project, planted at the Whitin Mill Building

created the project as a way to deal with Julia’s depression and the loss of her two best friends. Using her firsthand experience, Julia realized many teens feel lost, alone and judged as they are making their way through depression, insecurity and loss. 
Showing her peers that there is light at the end of the tunnel, or a promise of hope in a yellow tulip, has been the driving force for the teen’s efforts. As a result, many chapters of The Yellow Tulip Project have been started all over the country in high schools and colleges. During Mental Health Week in October, groups gather to plant yellow tulips to bloom in May during Mental Health Awareness Month.
In collaboration with The Yellow Tulip Project, ValleyCAST hosted the first Hope Day Celebration on May 1 to begin Mental Health Awareness Month. The tulip garden located on the grounds at Alternative’s Whitin Mill was in full bloom on the beautiful sunny Saturday morning. 
ValleyCAST is part of Alternatives/Open Sky’s outreach program to the community, which includes many public events as well as the Free Summer Concert Series. “Busting the stigma surrounding mental health fits in perfectly with our mission of fostering an inclusive and engaged community, one that accepts all people with and without disabilities, including mental illness. The I Am More exhibit we have scheduled for the fall—another collaboration with YTP-aims to erase the stigma that surrounds mental illness by expanding our perception and challenging preconceived notions about what mental illness ‘looks like’,” said ValleyCAST Community Outreach Director Cristi Collari.
Attendees at The Yellow Tulip event heard Executive Director Suzanne Fox tell the story of her daughter’s depression and the loss of her two best friends during her sophomore year in high school and how that spearheaded her daughter Julia’s desire to help fellow teenagers reach out and know they are not alone, they can get help. Julia’s focus is also on eliminating the stigma that is often associated with a diagnosis of mental illness. The name of the project honors her friends’ favorite color and favorite flower.
The Yellow Tulip Project has gathered “an amazing group of young people who jumped in to help,” said Ms. Fox. Proactive school programs, ambassador programs in schools, Ted Talks, blogs, podcasts, Spotify, a Photographic ‘I Am More’ project are some of the ways “these young people are causing a ripple effect in their community.”  

 Eric and Ash l’Esperance performing as The Promise of Hope at the Yellow Tulip event.

Music for the event was provided by The Promise is Hope, a uniquely talented duo, Ash and Eric L’Esperance, spouses and bandmates who shared their own experiences with depression. Held on the Dennis H. Rice Community Plaza, the event also featured young people with personal stories and a mindfulness meditation lead by WCC Director of Outreach Monique Boucher-Adams.
ValleyCAST Director, Cristi Collari thanked all the people responsible for making the event a success and invited the community to attend the summer 2021 ValleyCAST Free Summer Series, including Blackstone Valley Bluegrass, The Promise is Hope, Knock on Wood, Chuck & Mud and the Hole in the Dam Band, Super Chief Trio, Far from Eden, Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Winds, Le’Mixx Band, Michelle Canning Band, and Changes in Latitudes Band. 

By Magda Dakin
Live music and happy masked people welcomed attendees to the first live event with actual people in more than a year at the Dennis H. Rice Community Plaza at Whitin Mill in Whitinsville on the first Saturday in May. 
The tulips in the garden out in front of the building, a true sign that spring is here, along with all the hopes and plans for the seasons ahead, are a perfect symbol of hope for The Yellow Tulip Project, which recently marked its 5th anniversary.
The brainchild of Julia Hansen, then a high school sophomore, along with her mother, Suzanne Fox, the two