Akron Children’s, Panera Chip in for Children’s Mental Health

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Missy McClain now travels all over Ohio to help schools and educational services to provide mental health resources to their students. A campaign launched Monday morning by Covelli Enterprises and Akron Children’s Hospital is intended to bring her some backup.  

Representatives of the children’s hospital and Warren-based Covelli Enterprises kicked off the Chip in for Children’s Mental Health campaign at the Panera Bread Bakery-Café, 7121 South Ave.

During the campaign, 40 cents from the sale of each Chocolate Chipper cookie in the 23 Covelli-owned Panera Bread cafes in Akron, Canton and the Mahoning Valley through May 21 will go toward funding a designated school-based social-emotional learning trauma and resiliency coach dedicated to Mahoning, Trumbull, Stark and Summit counties.

Youth mental health is “a national crisis,” Chris Gessner, president and CEO of Akron Children’s Hospital, said. Just over a year ago, the U.S. surgeon general declared a crisis in pediatric behavioral health.

“Unfortunately, we’ve just seen those problems continue to escalate, so as a pediatric health care provider, it’s our job to try to address and meet those unmet needs, he continued. “It’s great when we can partner with a Panera Bread and Covelli Enterprises to do that.”

McClain, in her role as community education program coordinator for school health services at Akron Children’s Hospital, travels to school districts and educational service centers statewide to do large presentations on what trauma is and how it can affect children and subsequently provide training for how to create in-school environments to support kids who are struggling.

“How this new initiative will work is they’ll hire another me, which is wonderful,” she said.

Representatives of Covelli Enterprises and Akron Children’s Hospital began talking a year ago about how they could expand their decade-long partnership, Danielle Covelli, marketing director for Covelli Enterprises, said.

“At Covelli Enterprises we’re committed to giving back and assisting the greatest needs across the communities we serve, and we recognize that mental health is definitely one of those needs,” she said.

“Mental health is at the forefront of everything in this country. It’s one of our biggest problems,” Sam Covelli, owner and CEO of Covelli Enterprises, said.

McClain sees students facing mental health challenges on two fronts in recent years. One is increased stressors from the COVID-19 pandemic, national emergencies and factors that many of today’s adults didn’t have to cope with as youths, such as social media.

“Young people are confused, stressed, anxious. They’re on information overload through social media. They’re always exposed or available to people through social media,” Gessner said.

At the same time, there has been a reduction in access to support services, as during the pandemic students were at home and not getting to see their teachers and school counselors every day, McClain said.

Any time something scary happens that leaves people “in a place of uncertainty,” it will produce emotions, according to McClain.

“The best that we can do when kids are experiencing that unexpected stress or that thing that we would have never guessed would have happened … is just help students think about how they can cope with this experience,” she said.

“We can’t control what happens when it comes to things like a train derailment. We have no control over that,” she continued. “So how do we help our kids talk about that experience? How can we help them process or navigate their emotions about that experience?”

Sam Covelli sees Tuesday’s launch event as something that will be remembered in the future.

“It’s going to be somewhere where you say, ‘Look at all the coaches we had in the school. Look at the results that we’ve got,” he remarked. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Pictured at top: From left, Missy McClain, Chris Gessner, Sam Covelli and Danielle Covelli.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.