Jason DeShaw, a country singer from Montana, has been selected to receive the National Association of Mental Illness’ Lionel Aldridge Champions Award for 2014.
The Lionel Aldridge Champions Award recognizes someone living with a mental illness who has exhibited courage, leadership and service on behalf of people with mental illness.
In selecting Mr. DeShaw for the award, the NAMI Board recognized his efforts to be a voice for those who struggle with mental illness. He will be recognized with the Champions Award at the 2014 NAMI National Convention in September in Washington, D.C., where he will also perform for the attendees. Vice President Joe Biden will attend the event.
Lionel Aldridge was a defensive star on the Green Bay Packers team of the 1960s and was coached by Vince Lombardi. Aldridge also played in the first two Super Bowls.
After Aldridge retired in 1973, he began a promising career as a television commentator but was stricken by schizophrenia. Before he found the path to fighting for his own recovery, Lionel Aldridge was homeless.
He eventually became a mental health advocate and speaker at NAMI conferences around the country. Every year NAMI honors him at its national convention. Aldridge died in 1998, two days before his 57th Valentine’s Day birthday.
Jason DeShaw, a news release said, “is a beacon of light in the dark world of mental illness and addiction. Baring his soul, Jason shares his hard fought struggles through story and song. His authenticity gives people permission to feel and acknowledges them as valued members of humanity. His goal is to reach out to others who are looking for help with mental illness or addictions.”
He has performed as an opening act for The Oak Ridge Boys, Little Big Town and Pam Tillis, presented his music across several states and in Europe, and has been featured in two television specials.
His style is a down-home, front-porch pickin’ sound. His original country songs are laced with lyrics that tell the story of rural America.
Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker Justin Lubke is researching a potential documentary about Jason DeShaw, and a television special is also being explored by an NBC affiliate.
In October, he will be the featured speaker for the South Dakota state NAMI convention, which will present a special focus on mental illness beginning in childhood and adolescence.