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    Natick woman makes strides against depression’s stigma

    Awesome Express — (from left) Kyle Coulter, Shaqed Druyan, Charles Winston, and Charles Coleman — will be performing in Needham Town Hall at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
    Keith Coulter
    Awesome Express — (from left) Kyle Coulter, Shaqed Druyan, Charles Winston, and Charles Coleman — will be performing in Needham Town Hall at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

    WALKING FOR AWARENESS: Last April, Elizabeth Audley of Natick made a donation in honor of a friend participating in Strides Against Stigma to raise awareness of depressive disorders. For this year’s event, which begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at Boston University’s Nickerson Field, she is part of the fund-raising team.

    Audley was only 6 years old when she was diagnosed with depression, shortly after her parents divorced, and she still is battling dysthymia disorder — a mild yet chronic form of depression that can persist for decades. However, she is walking in honor of her 11-year-old daughter, Lauren, whom Audley praises for maturity beyond her years in dealing with her own episodes of severe depression.

    Lauren notes that other kids she met while hospitalized attend her school.


    “Kids with depression are everywhere,” Lauren said, “and the less alone you feel, the easier it is to manage.”

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    Audley marvels at the growing awareness of depression and its dangers, and hopes that her family’s story will encourage others who share their struggles. For example, Audley said, she has learned to respect her energy limitations while challenging herself to be the best mother she can be. Coping mechanisms are key for both mother and daughter.

    “It would be great if every child learned about depression so they can recognize a short-term or long-term issue in themselves, or in others,” she said.

    For more information about this weekend’s fund-raising event, visit www.stridesagainststigma.org.

    FOR KIDS’ SAKE: The friendship between 15-year-old Madde Pontin of Lincoln and 16-year-old Valerie Herman of Newton has evolved into a partnership of philanthropy.


    The pair, who met in elementary school in Newton, will cochair their second annual charity brunch and fashion show next Sunday, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Neiman Marcus store in the Natick Mall, at Route 9 and Speen Street. The event, which benefits the music therapy program at the Franciscan Hospital for Children, will feature a performance by Morgan Dorr and John Keefe of the band Boys Like Girls, free cosmetic applications and demonstrations, and shopping.

    The teens got a first-hand glimpse of the hospitalized children’s enjoyment of the music therapy program during a visit to the hospital in Brighton, where Pontin’s family has a longstanding volunteer history. Soon afterward, they recruited a committee of friends to be models in a fashion event that attracted 200 people and raised $3,000 last April at Bloomingdale’s in Chestnut Hill.

    According to Pontin, a sophomore at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, next weekend’s fashion show will involve 20 models ranging from second-graders through high school seniors. In addition to items donated for raffles, local businesses providing free services include Davis Hairdressing of Newton, Rachael Lynsey Rubin Makeup & Photography of Framingham, and Stanford Shane Photography of Ashland. Adam Williams of WHDH-TV will serve as emcee.

    “Everyone is welcome,” said Herman, a sophomore at Gann Academy in Waltham. “It’s important to Madde and me to introduce people to how special this program is, so they can be moved the same way we were.”

    Tickets, which are being sold only in advance, are $15. For more information, visit www.franciscanhospital.org .


    NEWTON STARS: The Newton Schools Foundation will honor eight graduates of the city’s system Saturday night during its inaugural Alumni Awards gala, based on their local and national impact in business, education, arts and entertainment, entrepreneurship, science and innovation, politics, philanthropy, and sports.

    A VIP reception will take place from 6 to 7 p.m., with the main program from 7 to 10 p.m. at Newton South High School, 140 Brandeis Road.

    The honorees are Geeta Gandbhir, an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker; Paul Guzzi, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce; Matthew Malone, the state’s secretary of education; Jim Holzman, president and CEO of Ace Ticket; Robin Saitz, senior vice president at Parametric Technology Corp.; Joseph DeNucci, former Massachusetts state auditor; Enza Sambataro, cofounder of Youk’s Kids; and Jeff Idelson, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

    The event includes cocktails, dinner, and a live auction, with Newton resident Matt Siegel of KISS-108 serving as master of ceremonies. Proceeds will be used to expand the Newton Innovation Lab collaborative learning initiative. For tickets or more information, call 617-559-6121 or visit www.newtonschoolsfoundation.org.

    ‘HAIR’ REVIVAL:Rene ­Pfister, a Stow resident who teaches

    Stow resident Rene Pfister will direct “Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical” on April 25-26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston.

    voice at the Berklee College of Music, is directing the college’s musical theater ensemble and orchestra in a fully staged production of “Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical,” with performances Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Ave. in Boston.

    Pfister performed in the 30th anniversary European tour of “Hair,” during which he worked with its coauthor James Rado. He chose the musical for the Berklee ensembles based on its antiwar message and themes of social justice, racism, and poverty.

    “The piece, which is still relevant today, helps us think about what we believe and what we want to change in the world,” Pfister said.

    Tickets cost $8 and $16 in advance, or $12 and $20 on the day of the show. For more information, call 617-747-2261 or visit www.berklee.edu/bpc.

    EXPRESS RIDE: Since four teen members formed Awesome Express in late 2009, the rock band has performed its original music and cover songs at battles of the bands, charity events, and other local venues.

    Last month, the band added an award to its resume: Best Live Act of the Year, at the fifth annual Limelight magazine music awards in Coventry, R.I.

    “Being good live is really important to us, so we’re happy that other people think we are, too,” said Wellesley 17-year-old Charles Coleman , who sings, plays guitar, and writes the lyrics for many of the band’s original songs. The other members are 15-year-old lead vocalist Charles Winston of Needham, who also plays keyboard; 16-year-old bass guitarist Kyle Coulter of Needham; and 16-year-old drummer Shaqed Druyan of West Roxbury.

    Awesome Express will perform a free concert open to Needham youths in grades 9-12 at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Needham Town Hall, sponsored by Rockets Against Destructive Decisions. In addition, the band will play on June 27, 7 to 8:30 p.m., on the town green in Wellesley Center.

    For more information on the band, visit www. awesomeexpressband.com.

    People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cantrell@ globe.com.