At 16, Chloe Blumanthal has logged more than 6,000 hours of community service. Much of it has been dedicated to teaching children to be kind to one another, but her latest project is encouraging everyone to be nicer to themselves.
On April 18, the first Be Kind to Your Mind mental health conference will take place at Newberry’s,110 W Fourth St., in Alliance and it’s because Blumanthal saw a need and wanted to do something about it.
“My uncle took his own life last October,” Blumanthal said. “Being in high school especially, I see a lot of kids who aren’t getting the help they should. That’s how this came to be.”
The conference is Blumanthal’s Girl Scout Gold Award project.
“Basically, the Gold Award is the highest level award a scout can get in Girl Scouts,” Blumanthal said. “I knew I wanted to get mine when I was really young.”
The Gold Award requires at least 80 hours of community service toward a dedicated project that is sustainable. As a Girl Scout and former Miss Nebraska Outstanding Teen competitor, Blumanthal had several projects under her belt that she could have chosen to use, including Secret Kindness Agents which is devoted to teaching children to be kinder and more accepting to one another.
“I have 2,000 agents statewide, so it is something I’m passionate about,” Blumanthal said, explaining that the initial project was started by someone else. “For my Gold Award, I wanted to make it my own.”
With the Bronze and Silver Awards already under her belt, Blumanthal was able to start the Gold Award process, but first she needed to settle on an idea and choose an adviser.
“She jumped into this Gold Award process ready to learn and make the world a better place,” said her mom, Krista Blumanthal.
Shanna Rosentrater, a licensed mental health practitioner in Alliance, had mentioned the idea of a mental health event in the Panhandle to Krista Blumanthal.
“I’m all too aware of our mental health shortages and the stigma some of our communities still believe,” said Rosentrater. “I would love to normalize the need for good mental health practices, to try and prevent our people from struggling with poor mental health.”
When Blumanthal heard about the idea, she felt like it was a good fit for her project.
“Chloe asked if she could make it her Gold Award project and I agreed 100 percent,” said Rosentrater.
Chloe then asked Rosentrater to be her adviser, to which she also agreed.
“She’s a Girl Scout mom as well, so she gets the process,” Blumanthal said. “I wanted her to be my mentor because I knew she’d keep my motivated. She has a really go-getter personality.”
In order to actually begin the project, Blumanthal had to participate in an interview with the Gold Award committee.
“They quiz you on everything under the sun,” she said, laughing. “I got approved my first time, which is very rare. A lot of girls have to go back and make adjustments and might have to do five or six interviews.”
That was probably the easiest part of the process – Blumanthal still had to line up mental health professionals to speak.
“I’d say the biggest challenge for Chloe would be trying to contact region providers,” said Rosentrater, explaining that they’re spread out geographically and spread thin on time and resources.
Blumanthal persevered and managed to line up a variety of service providers including counselors, meditation experts and yoga instructors. There will be booths set up to provide education about self-care, suicide prevention, specialized therapy techniques, homeopathic remedies, nutrition and careers in the mental health field, among others.
“Two guest speakers will be talking about their areas of mental health as well,” Blumanthal said.
The other major challenge Blumanthal has faced with the project was financial.
“As a teenager, I didn’t know how I can pay for this,” Blumanthal said.
She wrote and submitted a grant application to the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska, and was awarded an Ambassador Career Engagement Award grant for the full amount she requested of nearly $3,000.
“I had to FaceTime with BHECN to explain the project,” Blumanthal said. “They want me to reach as many people as I can. One of the big things about their award is making sure you get information about mental health careers out there.”
The hope is that more students will become interested in being mental health providers in an effort to reduce the shortage of practitioners, particularly in rural areas. A BHECN representative will be at the conference to share information about career pathways, camps and scholarships for interested students.
The conference is open to students and adults alike, but Blumanthal really hopes to have an impact on the youth that attend.
“I have amazing parents,” Blumanthal said. “I have a mom and a dad that’s always there — I can’t imagine not having them and some kids don’t.”
Many teens feel misunderstood, drowning in waves of homework, first jobs and technology. It’s no longer possible to get away from the students who cause problems at school — all it takes to continuing bullying someone is a barrage of mean text messages.
“Things can get really overwhelming for us,” Blumanthal said.
She’s the perfect example of how busy a teenager can be with her involvement in Scouts, FCCLA and cheerleading in addition to the other volunteer work she does and school.
Krista Blumanthal said she’s in awe of her daughter’s empathy and drive.
“She is 100 percent herself every minute of every day,” she said. “She is kind, bright, determined, unbelievably talented — and hugely humble about it all.”
Registration for the event, set for 1-4 p.m. on April 18, is now open. It is $10 a person. Current Girl Scouts can register at www.girlscoutsnebraska.org and non-Girl Scouts can register by calling 308-760-6402. The registration includes a T-shirt, patch, snack and activities.
As the date draws closer, Blumanthal has been watching all the pieces fall into place and her mom has been watching her daughter with immeasurable pride.
Krista Blumanthal said, “She’s just the best human I know.”