2012 Mental Health Champions

Tomas Hernandez has worked diligently with NAMI Kansas City and NAMI Kansas as a mental health advocate. He started his own mental health advocacy organization, the Rita Kay Foundation, and is working to start support groups for urban youth dealing with mental health issues. Tomas, who is also a veteran, speaks passionately about his experience with mental illness.
He has been an “In Our Own Voice” speaker for many years and is also a Peer-to-Peer teacher and state trainer. Tomas moves at a relentless pace and does not take “no” for an answer. However, he is always willing to slow down and lend a hand of support to other mental health consumers.

Tomas is on a mission to empower individuals to make a difference in their lives and their communities. He is dedicated to breaking the stigma of mental illness and educates others on how to prevent tragedies. He continuously tries to provide those around him with hope, support and encouragement.

Watch a video about Tomas.

Shelly Wims is a role model for people who are struggling with alcohol and other drug addictions. She is open about her addiction experiences and, early in her recovery process, expressed a desire to become a substance abuse counselor. She moved to the St. Louis area and began to organize recovery support groups at one of the local churches, as well as pursue her goal of becoming a substance abuse counselor.

Currently, Shelly is a counselor with Gateway Foundation in St. Louis. Shelly also served as an instructor for Committed Caring Faith Communities’ Advanced Addictions Academy for faith leaders. She continues to share her personal testimony and expertise, and helps faith leaders learn to work with people who are re-entering the community after being incarcerated for drug-related offenses.

Shelly continues to take on new endeavors to help people who are addicted or incarcerated. She is the voice for many who are unable to speak for themselves and she is determined to make the most of each day making a difference in the lives that she touches.

Watch a video about Shelly.

Aaron Likens has worked tirelessly over the past two years to increase awareness and understanding of autism through workshops and presentations, as well as advocating for early intervention. He provides insight into life with autism and how to better support an individual with spectrum disorder. Over the past two years, Aaron has led presentations for more than 7,000 people in 42 counties throughout Missouri.

He is also a published author who shares how the Autism Spectrum Disorder mind works through his book, “Finding Kansas: Decoding the Enigma of Asperger’s Syndrome”. Aaron just finished a nation-wide book signing tour in April. He also has hundreds of followers throughout the world who enjoy and learn from his daily life chronicles which he posts to his Blog: Life on the Other Side of the Wall.

Aaron is impacting thousands of lives by sharing his perspective, struggles and triumphs, and more importantly he has given hope to many families that face the challenges of autism each day.

Watch a video about Aaron.