PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan is expanding its anti-bullying campaign “be nice.” to Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
The newly-created David Braganini Memorial Fund is making the expansion possible.
The Braganini family created the memorial fund with the Kalamazoo Community Foundation to help schools in Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties that want to offer the “be nice.” program.
The memorial fund is a tribute to David Braganini, the former president of St. Julian Wines in Paw Paw, who died by suicide in 2016.
His family says he struggled with depression. They hope the memorial fund set up in his name will help save lives.
“I know what it’s like to tell people and cry out for help and they might understand and they might listen but they don’t know how to react,” said Isabella Braganini, David’s niece.
The memorial fund will pay half of the costs for the “be nice.” curriculum, taking away some of the financial burdens for schools.
The expansion could expose as many as 50,000 more West Michigan students to the program — about 16,000 students in Van Buren County and 35,000 students in Kalamazoo County.
Isabella told 24 Hour News 8 that she’s struggled with depression for more than five years and hopes this can open doors for students that may be in a similar situation.
“Just because you know someone in school and you might have an idea of who they are, doesn’t mean you know what goes on when they leave,” said Isabella. “You can judge someone, but you know what, they may be going through an awful miserable at home. You don’t know.”
This is the fifth fund created at a West Michigan community foundation for “be nice.” which stands for notice, invite, challenge and empower.