Irsay Family’s Kicking The Stigma Initiative Expands to Assist Indiana Teens and Youth

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January 2022

Last year, we proudly shared with our readers the news that Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay and his family kicked off Kicking The Stigma, the family’s mental health initiative that drew in the support of several NFL players, staff members and celebrities such as Carson Daly, Jim Gaffigan, Snoop Dogg, Cameron Crowe, Rob Lowe, Mike Epps, Tony Dungy, Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Carson Wentz, Darius Leonard and many others. We featured Colts vice chair/owner Kalen (Irsay) Jackson on both covers of Carmel Monthly and Zionsville Monthly to help raise awareness.

Irsay Family’s Kicking The Stigma

This month, we are honored to share an update from Kalen Jackson on the progress that Kicking the Stigma has made including a recent announcement that Jim Irsay and his family donated $650,000 to the Riley Children’s Foundation as part of the Kicking the Stigma’s mental health initiative.

The Irsays have partnered with Riley Children’s Health to expand the Indiana Behavioral Health Access Program for Youth (“Be Happy”). The “Be Happy” program aims to improve access to mental health services for Indiana’s children and adolescents.

What Is The “Be Happy” program?

The Indiana Behavioral Health Access Program for Youth (“Be Happy”) within Indiana University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry is an innovative new child psychiatry access program for pediatric primary care providers. The program aims to improve Hoosier families’ access to best practice pediatric behavioral health care across the state by supporting health care providers in their local communities with guidance from psychiatric specialists.

With the gift from the Irsay family, the “Be Happy” program will be able to expand its services to children and teens who need access to behavioral health resources.

The Immediate Impact of The Irsay’s Gift To The “Be Happy” Program

The “Be Happy” program is unique because it works with any network or doctor and is not exclusive to the IU Health Network.

“I think this is super innovative of IU to be part of a program like this,” Jackson stated. “Otherwise, it would just be another barrier for someone to have to jump through. This program exists in a few other states and in some of those states, the success of the program has led to the expansion of ‘Be Happy’ programs in those states’ counties. So, how our gift is going to help our state’s ‘Be Happy’ program is that it will allow more doctors to take on more patients and to take more calls.”

A Recap Of Last Year’s Campaign Kick Off

Jackson shared some of the highlights since the official launch of Kicking the Stigma last summer.

“We raised a little over $2.2 million and then my dad [Jim Irsay] matched that to make it a little over $4.5 million, collectively,” Jackson shared. “It was a unique event in that it was a weeklong and we used that opportunity to create more awareness and more conversation on this topic. We had people sharing about it on social media and listening to different voices that were part of it from Peyton Manning to Snoop Dogg and everybody in between.”

Jackson emphasized that the awareness aspect of the Kicking the Stigma campaign has been vital to connecting with people throughout the country, diminishing the stigma associated with behavioral health and ensuring them that they are not alone in this so that they don’t hold back from seeking out the resources they need.

“The next big highlight would be that we were able to disperse a lot of those funds—a little over $2.4 million—through our Kicking the Stigma Grants Fund,” Jackson stated. “The most recently announced was the $3 million gift to the Irsay Family Research Institute at Indiana University.”

With this gift, IU will establish a new institute in Bloomington, Ind. designed to be the leading national center for researching and addressing the stigma surrounding mental health.

“This gift is going to increase the amount of research and productivity in terms of stigma research,” Jackson said. “Another big piece of this is trying to develop a better workforce. That’s one of the biggest issues, especially in childhood psychiatry. As a state, we train two child psychiatrists every year. In talking with experts, we [as a state] should be training 12-15 [childhood psychiatrists] a year based on the number of kids and the growing need. We have resources but there is a lack of people [in the workforce] to treat kids.”

Jackson reminded us that many of us are feeling like our lives are not back to “normal” and for kids, it’s much harder for them to put into words what it is that they’re feeling.

“I think the more we realize that we are all struggling with this, then we can do it better, together,” Jackson expressed. “Advocating for the organizations that we are working with is a big part of what our initiative has become. We’re doing our best to help steer people in the right direction and we’re taking the time to look through all the options and who’s going to make the biggest impact, tomorrow.”

The Irsays are currently planning an in-person event for this year’s Kicking the Stigma annual fundraiser which they hope to host in early summer.

Jackson added, “We haven’t set an official date yet, but we hope to be able to do it in-person and have just as much success, if not more, that we did last year. We’re taking this [initiative] very seriously and we’re proud of what’s been accomplished so far but there’s still so much more to do. We know we’re not the experts and that’s why we’ve committed so much time and learning, talking to the experts who have been doing this for years. We feel like we’ve found some really good pillars in our community and nationally to lead us in the right direction.”

Stay tuned for more information to come on this year’s Kicking the Stigma annual fundraiser, as the details become available. Until then, for more information about Kicking the Stigma, its partners and available resources, please visit and click on the “Kicking the Stigma” tab.

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