President & CEO’s Message

Dear Friends,

I am writing to you with a call to action: On November 12 and 13, Sunshine from Darkness – with support from the Lee and Bob Peterson Foundation – will present the Journey to Wellness Symposium and Inspiring Hope Dinner in Sarasota, Fla. In 2019, I made the decision to re-introduce these events to continue the efforts my parents guided for 15 years, raising more than $5 million for mental health research. Today, I ask that you consider sponsoring these events and help to support mental health services in Sarasota-Manatee as well as cutting-edge mental health research.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our plans for these events in 2020, leading to their unfortunate cancellation. Like so many in our community, we’re still feeling the effects of the pandemic, from lives lost, to economic upheaval, to missed time with family, friends, and those we care about the most. Even as brighter days are on the horizon, we worry that life may never return to the way it was before the coronavirus. This sense of loss galvanizes us, because we know that the mental health research and the services we support are needed now more than ever.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2020 a full 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues. Of all U.S. adults in 2020:

    • 31% reported anxiety or depression symptoms
    • 26% reported trauma or stress-related symptoms
    • 13% started or increased substance abuse
    • 11% seriously considered suicide 
    • Studies are showing that mental health in the U.S. is worsening among ALL age groups


It is worth noting that these numbers are self-reported, meaning that the actual percentages may, in fact, be higher. Additionally, young people have been particularly affected by the pandemic, with severe impacts including significantly increased levels of depression and anxiety, among other conditions.

Our need to act is greater than ever before.

Unfortunately, Florida ranks dead last in the country in spending for the treatment of mental health disorders. For this reason, I have chosen First Step of Sarasota as the mental health service beneficiary of the Sunshine from Darkness events. The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation will be the scientific research beneficiary.

My desire to further my parents’ legacy comes from my deep commitment and dedication to those who suffer from mental health and addiction disorders. We must stop the adverse outcomes and the economic cost of untreated mental illness and move brain research to the forefront of funding.

Please visit out Sponsorship page for your review and consideration. I hope you will join Sunshine from Darkness in helping to fund research that could transform people’s lives and enhance their well-being as well as supporting an agency that provides critically needed mental health services right here in our local community.

Thank you in advance for your generous support.

With warmest regards,

Jeffrey Peterson
President & CEO, The Lee and Bob Peterson Foundation