As the saying goes, give someone a fish and you’ve fed that person for a day; teach someone to fish and you’ve fed that person for a lifetime.

In that vein, a few of Greater Des Moines’ most influential community leaders are showing a group of 16 emerging leaders their best casting techniques -- as they help them launch a fundraising initiative to raise awareness of mental health issues and pave the way for a multimillion-dollar expansion of mental health facilities and programs at Broadlawns Medical Center.

The result is the Broadlawns Advocate Circle, which has spent nearly the past two years preparing for an information and fundraising campaign to benefit Broadlawns.

In addition to increasing public awareness, the campaign’s goal is to raise $15 million to expand Broadlawns’ current inpatient mental health services and to build a new outpatient mental health clinic. Currently there is a 120-day average waiting time in the central Iowa for public mental health services. The Broadlawns Advocate Circle hopes to significantly reduce that waiting time.  

The project also provided a handy way to involve and mentor a group of young leaders, said Connie Wimer, chairman of Business Publications Corp. Inc., who spearheaded the mentoring initiative with Johnny Danos, director of strategic initiatives at LWBJ Financial. Other mentors include Lynn Graves, Cara Heiden, Charlotte Hubbell, Douglas Reichardt, Tom Urban and Steven Zumbach.

On Oct. 24, the Broadlawns Advocate Circle will hold its first fundraising event, “Cake & Cocktails” at the Wakonda Club, to meet a goal of raising $200,000 for the mental health awareness campaign. Tickets for the Oct. 24 Cake & Cocktails fundraiser are $100 per person or $60 for those 35 and under. To order tickets, email   

Health experts estimate that one in four Americans lives with some form of mental illness, ranging from depression and eating disorders to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Multiplying the challenge of treating the disorders is the tremendous social stigma surrounding mental illness, said Megan Ruble, 34, one of the young leaders hand-picked for the initiative.  

“We want to start a conversation about mental illness so that it’s not such a taboo topic,” said Ruble, who is a senior account manager with Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. And given a choice among several areas of need at Broadlawns for which to raise funds, the group chose to focus on the hospital’s mental health facilities, to address needs such as a lack of private inpatient rooms.

On a personal level, “the group has been a one-of-a-kind experience for me to learn alongside experienced mentors and community leaders,” Ruble said. “Our group has been together for almost two years, and will continue for another couple years as we begin the heavy lifting of fundraising over the next 12 to 18 months.”