It all began with a tattoo of the phoenix. Rebecca was feeling well, hopeful and full of the possibilities for living a life of passion, awareness and compassion for herself and all those she knew and had yet to meet who lived with mood disorders. She was 28 when she had the phoenix tattooed on the small of her back. Her father and I were horrified. We did not understand the significance of that bird to Rebecca–the magical creature of ancient myth that dies and rises again from its own ashes. We did not understand it was Becky’s statement, to herself, that she had come through very dark times and felt reborn. We just didn’t get it.
Rebecca loved to help people—friends and strangers alike. If she knew or suspected someone needed guidance, support, warmth, a shoulder to cry on, or a helping hand, she was front and center. I don’t know how many folks she guided toward better mental health, but I do know she did just that, through her ability to listen and empathize. Rebecca knew the pain of depression and loss of hope for a life of meaning and purpose. She also knew just the opposite was true, even while living with a mood disorder. She had great spirit and wisdom.
Rebecca’s 30th birthday was November 13, 2004. To celebrate that special occasion, she planned a fundraiser for the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) to begin the process of changing the face of depression. She knew it was risky business. Who wants to celebrate a birthday by raising funds for depression? Becky did. She knew something had to be done to teach people the truth about mental health, and she was willing to start with her own story.
Her fundraiser birthday party didn’t happen. Instead, Becky had a smaller, quieter celebration with family and friends. The following June she was no longer with us.
This is the backstory to Rebecca’s Dream, the phoenix logo and the Rebecca Lynn Cutler Legacy of Life Foundation. Today, Becky’s family and friends carry forward with her dream, and this is how we do it:
Rebecca’s Dream partnered with DBSA for four years until we became an independent 501(c)(3) charitable foundation. We honor the Phoenix and the Dream by raising funds through a yearly benefit, individual donations and smaller “meet-and-greet educational friend-raisers” held throughout the year. Our goals remain the same as Rebecca’s—to promote awareness and compassionate understanding of depression and bipolar disorder as real diseases.
In 2010, Rebecca’s Dream funded three programs that carry forward our mission and vision of changing the face of depression. These programs include a study guide to accompany and enhance the video “Real Teenagers Talking About Depression,” which targets 8th graders through high school sophomores; a custom theatrical production sharing five true stories of young women impacted by depression and bipolar disorder; and a program titled “Speak Out Against Stigma,” which emphasizes the impact of depressive disorders on families and the need for effective diagnosis, treatment and health care coverage.
In 2013, Rebecca’s Dream awarded 40 scholarships to those who were otherwise financially unable to attend DBSA’s annual national conference in Florida (June, 2013). All recipients were grateful for the generosity and compassionate understanding of Rebecca’s Dream.
The Rebecca Lynn Cutler Legacy of Life Foundation is propelled by the dream Rebecca left us—to teach the world that, while mental health issues are real, individuals can live productive lives filled with hope, commitment and courage. Education is the backbone of Rebecca’s Dream. It is our reason for being. It is the passion that stokes the fire beneath the Phoenix. It is what Rebecca wanted to accomplish and what we will pursue—not just for her—but for all of the individuals living with mood disorders, their families, their friends, and their colleagues, so that they may live their lives to the fullest.
We will continue to grant funds to organizations and foundations that share our vision and mission. Thank you for joining us on the wings of a dream. Hold on tight! We have places to go and much to accomplish.