Attitudes In Reverse® Honors Robert Garofalo, PhD(c),
West Windsor Police Chief, as Champion of Hope
PRINCETON, NJ, September 5, 2023 – Throughout his 35-year career in law enforcement, Robert Garofalo, PhD(c),Chief of Police, West Windsor Township Police Department, witnessed many young people losing their lives to suicide. “I wanted to be part of the solution, not just a bystander – to prevent and insulate kids from this,” he said. Chief Garofalo has initiated programs focusing on physical and cyber safety and reinforced the importance of mental health. He has also been working with Attitudes In Reverse® (AIR®), a local nonprofit dedicated to mental health awareness and suicide prevention whose human and canine volunteers provide support when crises occur. To recognize Chief Garofalo’s support for AIR and ongoing efforts to strengthen individuals’ mental health, AIR will honor him with a Champion of Hope Award during the 7th Annual Taste of Hope event, which will be held on October 4, 2023, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Princeton Marriott at Forrestal, Princeton, New Jersey.
“Our police department works with individual youth at events, providing drug intervention and mental health intervention and showing youth positive interactions. We always get Tricia and the AIR dogs involved in our events and when tragedies happen,” Chief Garofalo said, referring to the co-founder of AIR and the therapy dog-human teams she trains and certifies. “AIR has incredible crisis response dogs and incredible school programs. We spread knowledge of AIR and other resources available to police departments to help them do their jobs.”
“All of us at AIR are tremendously grateful to Chief Garofalo for his support and proactive efforts in the West Windsor community,” Tricia Baker said. “He has helped raise awareness of not only our organization and life-saving mission, but also the importance of mental health as part of everyone’s overall well-being.”
“Thanks to Chief Garofalo, we have been able to educate many more youth and their families about mental health and suicide prevention, and build their comfort to speak up and seek support to help them through difficult times,” added AIR Co-founder Kurt Baker.
One of the many programs Chief Garofalo and the West Windsor Police provides is a youth academy to teach students about police work and much more. “We discuss filling your toolbox with devices to build and fix things, to get jobs done. When you participate, you gain more tools to deal with emergencies and keep from panicking. AIR provides additional valuable tools by helping kids develop coping skills and channel their emotions in positive directions, and the crisis-support dogs are immediate tools that are incredibly effective,” he said.
“AIR is reversing attitudes about mental health and suicide, and providing resources to talk about what people don’t want to talk about,” Chief Garofalo added. “My parents didn’t talk about cancer or divorce. The belief was ‘don’t tell and it doesn’t exist’ and ‘keep it in the closet and hope it goes away.’ We learned a lot about discussing our fears and not suffering in the dark. AIR is the flashlight and beacon of hope. That is AIR’s past and present and their legacy.”
Garofalo will be honored along with Kevin D. Coleman, CEO & Managing Principal, Intrepid Commercial Realty, Champion of Hope; and Partners in Hope Nikki Casey, Social Worker, and Maria Petsos, BCBA, LTD/C, District Supervisor of Special Education, Ewing Public Schools.
AIR is grateful for the participating restaurants and dessert, wine and spirit vendors are Antimo’s Italian Kitchen, Applebee’s of Lawrenceville, Carella’s Chocolates, CATB Liquor Imports, Crown of India, De Lorenzo’s Tomato Pies, Iron & Ivy at Princeton Marriott at Forrestal, Joe Canal’s of Lawrenceville, KK Sweets, Local Greek, Life Vine Wine, Madam Cupcakes, Outback Steakhouse of Hamilton, P.F. Chang’s, Public Wine, Beer & Spirits, Plush Vodka, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Seasons 52, Senor Sangria, Sourland Mountain Spirits, Starbucks and Texas Roadhouse.
To register to sponsor and/or attend the Taste of Hope event or make a donation, please visit www.toh.ngo.
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Attitudes In Reverse® (AIR®) was established by Tricia, Kurt and Katelyn Baker of Plainsboro, NJ, in 2010, soon after their son/brother Kenny died by suicide following a long battle against severe depression and anxiety. Their mission is to save lives by educating students about mental health, related disorders and suicide prevention. Since January 2011, they have presented to more than 160,000 students in elementary, middle and high schools and colleges in New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Missouri, Texas and Arizona. AIR also offers the AIR Dogs: Paws for MindsSM program, bringing dogs into schools to help students de-stress and engage in the conversation about mental health. In addition, AIR trains and certifies Emotional Support Animals and offers a lunch-and-learn program for businesses. For more information about AIR, please visit www.air.ngo or call 609-945-3200.
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