Public High School Students Have Access to Performances Thanks to a Generous Gift

Custom Program at Solorio Academy

Actors Debbie Banos, Chris Khoshaba, and Janyce Caraballo with facilitator Am’Ber Montgomery at an Erasing the Distance performance at Solorio Academy High School in Chicago on March 14, 2019.

Custom Program at Solorio Academy

Janyce Caraballo shares Emily’s story at Solorio Academy High School.

Custom Program at Solorio Academy

After every Erasing the Distance performance, there is a facilitated dialogue to explore the themes of the performance. Here, facilitator Am’Ber Montgomery sits with actors Debbie Banos, Chris Khoshaba, and Janyce Caraballo on stage. The performances at Solorio Academy were possible because of the Jdawg and TheDman Charitable Fund gift.

Erasing the Distance is now able to reach more Chicago Public High School students thanks to the generous support of the Jdawg and TheDman Charitable Fund.

We sat down with Pete Magrini—the fund was created and is managed by the Magrini family—to learn more about the Jdawg and TheDman Charitable Fund and how their support is helping to eliminate stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Would you give us some background on the Jdawg and TheDman Charitable Fund?

We established the fund in 2018. We’ve donated throughout our careers, but when I retired we decided to create a centralized charitable fund, one fund we could contribute to and donate from as a family. Donation and distributions decisions are made by my wife Cheri (who is on the board of Erasing the Distance), our son John, his wife Ariel, and myself.

Our mission is to bring hope to young adults living with mental health conditions and to support their families.

Is there a story behind the fund’s name?

The Jdawg and TheDman Charitable Fund is named after sons, John and Dan. Jdawg and TheDman were their nicknames for each other growing up.

How do you choose organizations to support?

We focus on organizations we want to empower, ones that are near and dear to our hearts.

With Erasing the Distance, we connected with the mental health impact and our desire to promote mental wellness. It’s an area we are particularly invested in as a family. We lost Dan to bipolar disorder at age 23, and when Dan passed away, we were surprised at how many people opened up to us about experiences they’d had in their lives. Mental health issues they’d experienced themselves, or what they’d seen happen with their friends and family.

We also support familial and faith groups. For example, we give to Cheri’s church and are involved with an organization that grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. 

When did you become involved with Erasing the Distance?

My wife Cheri was introduced to Erasing the Distance first. There was a performance at the First United Methodist Church Chicago Temple where Cheri ministers. Impacted by the performance and interested in the mission, Cheri reached out and shared her own story. Then, Cheri had the chance to see her story performed by Brighid O’Shaughnessy, the Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus of Erasing the Distance.

Because of these experiences, and events that followed, our family has witnessed first-hand the power of transforming true stories into documentary theatre and the impact of Erasing the Distance’s mission, both as audience members and as storytellers.

The Jdawg and TheDman Charitable Fund is supporting multiple public high school performances. How did this begin?

Awareness is important to our family. Eliminating stigma and helping people of all walks of life, all types of people, become aware of how they, or someone they love, could be battling their own mental health wellness.

We know people are struggling. People need help. That’s why we are involved with Erasing the Distance, to help young people find a path to healing. Reaching school populations that normally don’t have access to the work of Erasing the Distance is essential because often mental health conditions begin in adolescence. We are thankful our gift enables more stories to be shared.

 

“No two experiences are the same. Two years in therapy might seem like a long time to one person. To someone else, it might not seem that way at all. Something that looks small to the outside world might be really big to you. So we really can’t compare ourselves to each other, we’re all on our own paths.” 

–Discussion after Solorio Academy High School performances.

 

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