Sue Gilbertson is a tireless advocate for mentally and behaviorally challenged children in the state of Arizona. She volunteers full-time, attending committee meetings, board meetings, advisory councils, and mental health coalitions. She has never received a salary, stipend or any other monetary compensation for her efforts.
Gilbertson began her career as a children’s mental health advocate after her teenage son fell prey to his own severe mental illness. It began in January 1984. Eric came home with more energy than she could handle. Eric’s thoughts were racing. He was unable to articulate the ideas in his head and Gilbertson was unable to calm him down. After dozens of telephone calls, she became aware of the lack of support available to parents and the stigma that shrouded mental illness.
In the 15 years since she first began her parent support group- MIKID, Gilbertson has received six local and state awards honoring her as an exceptional volunteer and advocate. Gilbertson’s brainchild, MIKID, has also taken extraordinary strides over the past decade. In a state that ranked 49th in the nation in 1984 and which offered virtually no services to families with mentally ill children, MIKID has established itself as a cornerstone agency.
Gilbertson has volunteered as president of MIKID as a board member every year without fail since its inception. MIKID’s employee and volunteer presence within the community is evident not only through her own dedication, but Gilbertson’s strides in the past decade also.
At 32 years of age, Eric is well past his adolescent years. And still Gilbertson plods steadily along, with no end to her volunteer service in sight. She has been serving children with special needs, not only within her home state, but also at the national level. She has spent the past 15 years mobilizing volunteers within her community to address a grossly overlooked human condition. Her approach was obviously innovative, as MIKID was the first effectively organized support and advocacy group in Arizona specifically serving parents and family members of mentally ill children.
One can cite the many programs at which Gilbertson has spoken an expert advocate, the countless support groups provided over the years, the educational presentations, the committee involvement, the information and referral and the hundreds of community events- all of which have slowly chipped away at the stigma behind mental illness. In the last year specifically, Gilbertson volunteered hundreds of hours towards MIKID’s many successes including but not limited to the Annual AC Green Celebrity Basketball Game, which brought more than 2,000 area children to a fundraiser for the Foundation and MIKID, and the ELVES Holiday Program that served more than 1,000 area children by providing gifts during the holiday season.