Jimmy Lee Project fundraiser set Sunday

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It has been two years since Poland High School graduate Jim Gruhlkey, who suffered from bipolar disorder, committed suicide at the age of 25.

On Sunday, at the B&O Station in downtown Youngstown, the third annual Jimmy Lee Project fundraiser will be held. It is being organized by Jim”s brother, Karl, and restauranteur Michael Alberini.

The Jimmy Lee Project is a non-profit organization that raises money for mental awareness and suicide prevention.

“Twenty years ago, nobody talked about breast cancer in public. It was a no-no. What we want to do is go ahead and bring that into the light. People don’t want to be referred to as crazy. Nobody wants to be shunned into the dark or think anything is wrong with them. We want to bring awareness to mental health issues and also suicide prevention, let people know there is an option,” said Karl Gruhlkey.

He said people are still hesitant to talk about suicide, but he and his family talk about it openly.

“Everybody, no matter who they are, has been directly affected by suicide, or bi-polar, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia. But a lot of people don’t realize it, acknowledge it too late or don’t even know where to go. Lack of insurance, stuff like that, prevents people from taking care of it,” Karl said. “We want to let people know there are options. Nobody should ever feel alone.”

Alberini said his executive chef was close friends with Jim Gruhlkey when he died and wanted to get involved with the project.

“After the first year of getting engaged with this project, we have now taken another step forward and want to put our thumbprint on such a worthy cause,” Alberini said.

In addition to great food, Sunday’s event will feature a basket raffle, a 50-50 raffle, a cornhole tournament, face painting, a giant Jenga tournament, a bounce castle for the children and live music. Cost is $5, with children 13 and under admitted free.

Money from this year’s event will go to Help Hotline. The past two years, money has been donated to Riverbend.

Sunday’s event will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. at the B&O Station.

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