"We all know the positives around our choice to live in rural northern Wisconsin,” said Feed Our Rural Kids Inc. (FORK) President Perry Pokrandt.

“We have the endless forests, the beautiful lakes, and flowing rivers and streams. We have great schools, incredible healthcare and generous neighbors who are always there,” said Pokrandt. “But it is all the things we cannot see, or do not choose to look at, that makes life in rural areas a challenge for many.” 

These hidden obstacles to people’s success or happiness are why FORK and the Northern Lakes Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) are coming together for the second annual Concert for the Kids on Saturday, June 5, from 6 to 8 p.m.

“Our collaborative fundraising effort will help both our organizations’ efforts to address some of the hidden issues facing some families here in the North Woods,” said NAMI Executive Director Mick Fiocchi.

The Northern Lakes Chapter of NAMI was formed because even though the prevalence of mental illness is similar between rural and urban residents, the services available are vastly different. Studies show rural children are 20% less likely to receive mental-health treatment than identically challenged urban children.

“We are working together to change the rural landscape for children growing up here in rural northern Wisconsin,” said Fiocchi.

FORK was created because youths in rural areas are at a higher risk of food insecurity than those in urban areas. Feeding America, a U.S.-based nonprofit network of more than 200 food banks, noted that rural (nonmetropolitan) counties make up 63% of all counties in the country, but they account for 79% of counties with the highest rates of food insecurity. 

“Research shows that the challenges to area families in search of nutritional support or mental-health treatment sadly mirror each other. There are three significant barriers they face,” said Pokrandt

“The first barrier to support is accessibility; with rural residents often needing to travel long distances to receive help. 

“Secondly there is the issue of availability. Where is help available? What type of support do local programs provide? Is there a program that will meet your needs? 

“Finally, is the issue of acceptability. The stigma of needing or receiving help, whether to help feed your child, or to support their mental health. All these factors stand in the way of many individuals from getting the support that would be life changing,” said Pokrandt.

The Concert for the Kids is a partnership that brings together the two local organizations in support of area children who are challenged by their family’s decision to live in rural paradise.

“Kids don’t pick being hungry nor do they choose to suffer mental illness,” said Pokrandt. “Kids cannot pull themselves up by their bootstraps because kids are not born with boots.”

“But you and your family can choose to help,” added Fiocchi. “Join us for the Concert for the Kids and make your contribution to these two great organizations.”

The concert will be broadcast on Coyote 93.7 FM and streamed on YouTube (click the concert link at feedourruralkids.org or naminorthernlakes.org).

Individuals wishing to donate to these two local organizations in advance of the concert can visit feedourruralkids.org/concert to donate. All proceeds will be shared between NAMI and FORK.

NAMI Northern Lakes and FORK are registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations.