Jefferson Awards: For Spreading the Word and Stopping the Stigma

Music has a lot of meaning. It's meant to move your body, your heart, your soul. AdamFest does that and more in memory of a young man who seemed normal on the outside, but struggled on the inside.

AdamFest honors Adam Smith, a 26-year-old graduate of United Township High School and student at St. Ambrose University, who was just starting his life when he decided to end it in 2012.

"After Adam died, it was such a tragic event that the only way we could think to keep his memory alive is to create something that would help other people and let us celebrate his life and that’s what this does," explained Adam's sister, Meghan Sharp.

"People are suffering from depression and anxiety attacks like my son who took his own life and we need to raise money to find a cure for this," added Adam's father, George Smith.

So George and his wife, Gloria, started the Rock Island County Mental Health Foundation. AdamFest helps them raise money for research and support. In its first year - 2014 - they raised $25,000. In 2015 - $24,440. In 2016 - $26,400.

However, there's another number that stands out to George:

"38,000 people commit suicide in the United States a year, every year and we need to find a cure for that and doctors are working diligently to try to find a cure for it," he said.

While they do, George is telling his story, his son's story by speaking at places like Black Hawk College to spread the word and stop the stigma associated with mental illness.

"It has to hit home for you to hurt like my wife and I have hurt and I hate to see another family go through what we went through," George said.

For his hard work, George is being nominated for the Jefferson Award. Thanks to the support of hundreds on and off the stage at AdamFest, music has more meaning because of him.

"This is a great community willing to step up to the cause," ended George.

Money from AdamFest goes to the Robert Young Center,  Transitions, and the University of Iowa's Psychiatry Department.

The Jefferson Awards

It's all about the people who are changing our community. For the third season, WQAD News 8 and Genesis Health System are bringing you eight local nominees of the Jefferson Award. The Jefferson Awards Foundation is a prestigious national recognition system honoring community and public volunteerism in America, or as well call them, "unsung heroes." On the last Tuesday of every month, WQAD News 8 will announce one nominee. Then, in Spring 2017, one of the eight will represent the Quad Cities in Washington, D.C. at the National Jefferson Awards Ceremony.