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They're naming a Greenwich Village street corner after this guy. Here's why.

Larry Selman was a prolific fundraiser and a genuinely nice guy.

If you've ever watched "Friends," you've seen the building at the corner of Bedford and Grove Streets in Manhattan.

See those buildings in the back? Yep, those ones! They're iconic. Image via Warner Bros. Television/ Getty Images.


That building was used for many years as the exterior of the hit 1990s sitcom. But earlier this month, some real life friends gathered there, too, to honor someone else: Larry Selman, a legend in the Greenwich Village community.

Larry Selman was known to the folks in Greenwich Village as the Collector of Bedford Street.

Photo provided by Alice Elliott, used with permission.

Why the "Collector of Bedford Street"? Selman collected an estimated $500,000 for charity before he passed away in January 2013 at the age of 70. He was also developmentally disabled.

“I believe there's a god, and I believe that he put us here for a reason," Selman told his Bedford Street neighbor, Alice Elliott, in her 2002 Oscar-nominated documentary about him.

“I see Larry as a philanthropist and a fundraiser and a community activist, and he had an IQ of 60 or less," Elliott told the gathering of friends earlier this month as they honored Selman at the corner of Bedford and Grove by naming the street corner after him.

A short pudgy man with thick prescription glasses, Selman lived in a cramped apartment with his beloved pets.

He quickly became involved in his local block association from the very beginning of its creation. He was helpful to his neighbors, accepting deliveries when they couldn't be home, sweeping the sidewalk, and in one case even reminding neighbors of other neighbors' birthdays.

He was, in that sense, Facebook before Facebook even existed. "He just made it his business to know who you were," Elliott said.

In the ultimate of neighborly acts, the local block association even raised money to care for Selman themselves after his elderly uncle passed away.

“If you measure people's hearts instead of their IQs, Larry would've been completely off the charts," Elliot said.

The trust fund was built up with contributions from people who lived in the neighborhood and even some who had retired and moved away to distant states. After Elliot's documentary was released, the Kiwanis Club adopted it as a tool for teaching "service leadership" to high school students. Students in high school Key Clubs sold buttons with a drawing of Selman to raise money, sending checks of $500 and $1,000 that also went in to the trust fund.

To say that Selman was a persistent fundraiser is like saying that Bruce Springsteen occasionally rocked the house.

Selman was a relentless force on the streets of Greenwich Village, raising money for AIDS, the fallen firefighters of 9/11, and in his final days of solicitation, a group that provides pets for seniors.

He was a familiar sight in the neighborhood, always approaching passersby for contributions. And neighbors said that one of the Selman's greatest charms was that he never found it inappropriate to ask for a contribution.

Producer Darren Star gets buttons from Selman at the Jewish Image Awards in Film and Television in 2003. Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images.

In "The Collector of Bedford Street" we see Selman hitting up a doctor who is examining him, asking for a contribution. At a ceremony in 2009, Selman was honored by The Caring Institute along with Colin Powell. During a photo op, he promptly asked the former Secretary of State if he'd like to contribute a little something, too. Powell placed a $100 bill in Selman's hand.

When I attended Selman's 70th birthday party not long before his passing, he asked me in that unmistakeable nasal New York accent, "Would you like to make a contribution?"

Selman suffered a stroke in 2007, meaning that he was destined to spend the last six years of his life in a wheelchair.

But even this didn't stop his fundraising. Although his speech was slurred, he still wheeled around Bedford Street collecting. Home care attendants, paid for by the community, stayed with him 24/7 in the one-room apartment whose walls were covered with greeting cards bearing pictures of puppies and kittens.

He passed away in June 2013, but he'll be remembered as the founder of an unmatched community in his neighborhood.

After the unveiling of the street sign that will now mark the corner of Bedford and Grove as Larry Selman Way, Elliott told a gathering of neighbors and local legislators:

“We feel that Larry actually created this community and that we are all beneficiaries of that. I hope we can pass it forward."

Connections Academy

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

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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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