The Academy Reopens: Beginning May 18, 2020, Academy members will have the option of attending the Academy or continuing with online services. For more information about our Phase I Safety Guidelines, click here.
Winter 2020 Ambassador Luncheon

Winter 2020 Ambassador Luncheon

Guest speakers Sheriff Knight and Dr. Matthew Thomas highlight Ambassador Luncheon

Last Thursday marked another successful Ambassador Luncheon, its theme: The Journey to Recovery. It´s true that these luncheons serve as fundraisers, but to our Academy community they are so much more. These events allow each of us to shine. We bring our very best selves to every detail, from the warmth and knowledge of our tour guides and polished multimedia videos to the beautifully prepared meal, staff and members work diligently for weeks to make everything…perfect? Probably not. Perfection has never been our goal. What we hope to accomplish is that our guests can see our heart. Nowhere was that more apparent than in those members who took the stage to share their stories of courage, vulnerability and recovery. You could hear a pin drop as some shared difficult parts of their journey. If their voices cracked a little, it just made us all root for them that much more.

Our Director, William McKeever, spoke first, explaining that ours is not a quick-fix program. Rather, we are here to help our members create slow-grown sustainable change. More odyssey than day-trip, we are in it for the long haul. The program was then turned over to several of our extended community partners, all of whom are an integral part of our success. Linda McKinnon, President and CEO of Central Florida Behavioral Health Network (CFBHN) spoke of our history, recalling when we first formed a public-private partnership with them, long before there were Academy doors to open. To this day, our continued partnership with CFBHN is a significant part of our sustainability. Dr. Matthew Thomas, Medical Director of Behavioral Health and Chair of Psychiatry for Sarasota Memorial Healthcare spoke of the imperative to consider each individual as unique in their recovery process. He reminded us that mental health treatment is not one-size-fits-all; each person’s journey will be different. Sheriff Tom Knight of Sarasota County spoke of building a strong community through initiatives such as crisis intervention training and jail diversion programs. He addressed the importance of having supports in place proactively. And certainly, we can’t mention our valued partnerships without a huge thanks to the Steinwachs Family Foundation which, once again, bowled us over with a $15,000 match. We are humbled by their continued generosity.


Sometimes after a successful event, it can feel a bit anti-climactic. After so much of our heart and soul went into the planning, it is over in the blink of an eye. A measure of the integrity of our community is how seamlessly we roll up our sleeves and get to work on the next project. Because a journey is a moving story, and we are all on this ride together.