The essence of the Hatsquerade cannot be seen in the spectacular photos, the extraordinary amount of support or the tremendous amount of funds raised. The essence of the Hatsquerade is something profound and deeply felt.

That essence comes from a shared human connection to one another in a safe and sacred space; a platform for sharing stories, heightening awareness and raising funds for the much needed treatment programs. A co-creation by all in attendance, earthly and in spirit evokes the essence of the Hatsquerade.

The ripple effect of this essence reaches beyond that night.  It touches every person receiving treatment from our benefactors, every professional delivering the treatments, every corporate table whose companies support a healthier workplace and every family who supports the Hatsquerade to honour the ones they love and sometimes have lost to the devastation of mental illness and addiction.   Their losses and/or triumphs are validated through the Hatsquerade platform.  An opportunity to partake in the eradication of stigma, the spreading of the message that those suffering are not alone and the funding of the programs required for healing. The cause is deeply personal to us all.  Whether spoken or not, personal or not, everyone has an experience of mental illness and/or addiction in their family, life or workplace.

For those who attend, they know the essence of which I speak of. Again and again they say “there is something different about this fundraiser”. To which I answer “yes there is”. That something is a knowing, a feeling and an experience by everyone in the room that we are all connected through our shared experiences of mental illness and addiction. Some experiences are shared and some lay silently in the hearts of attendees but all experiences come into the room that night, through every attendee and altogether.  The Hatsquerade fulfills their desire to make a difference for those they love who are affected and fills their hearts with hope.

The deeply personal and meaningful highlights of the evening continue off stage, where conversations take us wherever we want and need to go.  Some share their experience of mental illness or addiction for the first time with me that night. What a sacred privilege it is to give each other the comfort to share our deeply personal and painful stories and experiences.  When I am not in conversation I am filling my heart with snippets of interactions that I see from a distance.  Body language speaks volumes. Who knows what is being said, what is being healed, what is being witnessed. The essence of the Hatsquerade  is felt deeply, profoundly and honoured in every person, every conversation and every penny raised to support the incredible work of our benefactors.

For me, the Hatsquerade brings meaning to the threads in my life that lead me to my calling and my life’s work to change how we see and treat mental illness. It is one of the things in my life that validates that the pain, tears and suffering were not in vain.  They were a part of my story of transforming my personal family struggle into something meaningful.  A community, the Hats on For Awareness family works together to create a legacy that reaches beyond us all into something greater than ourselves.  The essence of the Hatsquerade fosters a collective understanding, compassion, kindness and hope. Hope for a future where mental illness and addictions cannot thrive.

For photos of the evening please visit

Blog photo: Anthony Ricciardi, Hats On For Awareness 2016