Dutch Bros Coffee hopes to raise $1.5 million for ALS research on Drink One for Dane Day.

When Dutch Bros. Coffee founder Dane Boersma got terribly sick, the family thought he had Lyme disease. It turned out to be ALS.

At the time of his dad's diagnosis, Brant Boersma knew almost nothing about ALS. All he really knew was that Lou Gehrig had it and was forced to retire from baseball because of it.

"Now I know more than I wanted to," says Boersma. "This disease is brutal. It’s evil. To put it simply, you slowly become a prisoner to your body. In my Dad’s case it was slow moving, but when it’s so intimate to your life, time doesn’t matter anymore."


ALS is notoriously difficult to diagnose, especially in the early stages, because it mimics many other neurological disorders. It inexplicably causes motor neurons to die, slowly but surely taking away the ability to move, talk, eat, and breathe. Dane didn't receive a full diagnosis until had already had respiratory failure and was on a ventilator. But Brant and the rest of Dane's family had watched his decline with helplessness and confusion.

"Words don’t really matter or even compare to the feeling of watching your hero go through such a traumatic experience," says Boersma. "I just knew that I needed to be there with my family, by his side."

Dane passed away in 2009 after a four-year battle with ALS.

Dane (left) and Brant (right) Boersma, seven years before Dane's passing. Photo credit: Brant Boersma

Boersma created Drink One for Dane Day at Dutch Bros. to honor his dad and raise money for ALS research.

Boersma describes his dad as "an incredible man" and his personal hero. "He was like a social glue that brought a variety of people together," says Boersma. "He had so many friends and loved so many people." He was known to many by his nickname, The Wiseman.

After what his family went through with Dane's journey, Boersma wanted to do something to educate people about ALS. "Nobody really knew what it was," he says, "so we wanted to not just honor him, but bring awareness to this disease. Shed some light on what it is, bring it to people’s attention."

"Also," Boersma adds, "we wanted to remind those people that cared about him so much that life is happening and we should celebrate that."

And so Drink One for Dane Day was born. On May 10th, Dutch Bros. Coffee will dedicate all of their coffee sales to ALS research—and to the man who never let his debilitating disease get in the way of his love for a good cup of coffee.

Drink One for Dane Day raised $1.3 million for ALS research in 2018. Photo credit: Dutch Bros. Coffee

"Every Dutch Bros Coffee poured on Drink One for Dane Day will fund the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s (MDA) crucial ALS research which is critical to find a cure," says Boersma. "Since its inception, MDA has invested more than $165 million in ALS research, with $20 million having been spent in the last five years."

Drink One for Dane Day is as much a celebration of life as it is a fundraiser for a deadly disease.

More than 30,000 people will be diagnosed with ALS this year, and most will be given two to five years to live. There is no cure at this time.

Boersma hopes Drink One for Dane Day will help researchers find a way to treat the disease However, he says that the May 10th event is about much more than funding ALS research—it's a celebration of life and "a battle cry for love."

Boersma told Upworthy:

On Drink One for Dane Day, I cruise in to all the Dutch Bros stands in town. I buy drinks and toast with family, friends, and strangers. The day has become so much bigger than a disease. It has become this reminder that humanity is incredible. In spite of obstacles or pain, we rally together not only in the pursuit of conquering this horrific disease, but also to unite and celebrate what we have—the ability to make a difference not just in our own lives, but each other’s. Drink One for Dane Day is a battle cry for love, and that’s what my Dad did so well with his life. He fought for love, not just on an intimate level, but on a community level. So if you read this and you’re out there on May 10th, know that there’s a whole community of humans raising a cup to life and love and the ability to make a difference. And even if you can’t donate or swing through and grab a drink, take a minute and salute with us the hope and dream of a greater world.

In 2018, Drink One for Dane Day brought in $1.3 million for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. This year, they're shooting for $1.5 million.

Brant Boersma will be at the original Dutch Bros. stand in Grants Pass, Oregon on Drink One for Dane Day, raising a toast to his hero, The Wiseman. If you'd like to join him May 10th to help fund ALS research, find a Dutch Bros. location near you here.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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