The Yellow Tulip Project, a nonprofit focused on smashing the stigma around mental illness, hosted its second annual Hope for the Holidays fundraiser Dec. 9 at Canopy by Hilton Portland Waterfront.

“It’s a night to get together, celebrate the holidays and talk about our mission,” said board member Daniel Featherstone of Appleton.

More than 100 people attended the cocktail social, including parents, guidance counselors, social workers and representatives from more than a dozen corporate sponsors, such as Androscoggin Bank, ClearH20, Juniper Design + Build and Opticliff Law. With an online auction added this year, the event netted $21,000 to support local Yellow Tulip initiatives and programs.

“This event helps build community around the organization and raise money,” said board member Johann Sabbath of Cape Elizabeth. “I have kids, and I want them to be as comfortable talking with me about their feelings as they are about a sprained ankle. The basic goal is just to get comfortable talking about their feelings and to normalize the conversation.”

Why? Because suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10-34.

Yellow Tulip grew out of Julia Hansen’s grief and search for hope after losing two close friends to suicide her sophomore year at Falmouth High School. She co-founded the nonprofit with her mother, Suzanne Fox, in 2016 and named it after one friend’s favorite flower and another friend’s favorite color. Since then, Yellow Tulip Project Hope Gardens have been planted in more than 500 communities across the country and even internationally.


One of Yellow Tulip’s newest programs is Young Men Moving Mountains, an interactive photography and storytelling initiative that features faces of young men and non-binary individuals who are impacted by mental health struggles. This male-focused initiative is in response to a sobering statistic: In 2021, boys and men accounted for about 80 percent of suicides. “We’re working hard to create safe, innovative spaces to help young men feel less alone,” said Executive Director Anais DerSimonian.

One of the Young Men Moving Mountains photo displays is of Ezequiel Romera, a Deering High School student. “It’s an opportunity to talk about men’s mental health, which is important to me,” he said. “The photographer, George Annan, made it such a comfortable experience and made me feel really confident.”

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Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at

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