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Liam's Memory Lives On

The Liam Michael Foundation: Saving Lives

"Passion with purpose can move mountains. Our overall goal is simply to do good in whatever way we can," asserts Lisa Picker, founder and president of a St. Charles-based nonprofit The Liam Michael Foundation. This foundation was born out of love for her only son, Liam, who lost his battle with mental illness and ultimately his life in 2015.  

The foundation's program now helps others through what the group deems as 'Butterfly Projects,' based on the butterfly effect that reflects even the smallest of actions or events can result in some of the biggest changes or transformations later. 

Nine years ago, Lisa suffered the most devastating blow that any parent could endure. She lost her son, Liam, to his own actions. 

“I’d give anything to have him back, but I wouldn't want him back struggling the way he was struggling,” says Lisa. “If you're a gentle person, I think you get bullied more."

Liam was a gentle soul but also an exceptional young man, she recalls. Drawn to Japanese culture at a young age, he taught himself to read, write and speak the language. He cruised effortlessly through his grade-school years, and like most boys, he enjoyed basketball and skateboarding. It was toward the end of grade school that Liam began to withdraw, she remembers, finding excuses not to attend parties or sleepovers. 

“He was such a young soul to be so tormented and so aware that something was wrong,” says Lisa.

Liam did find his voice in an unusual place: the piano keys. Liam had never taken lessons so Lisa says the family couldn’t believe it when they came home one night and heard him playing so fluidly.

“We found him a wonderful piano teacher who said the first time she sat down with him, she knew she was sitting with greatness,” Lisa recalls.

After his passing, Liam’s composition “Winter” debuted at Carnegie Hall. It was later picked up for a Japanese motion picture soundtrack.

Unfortunately, Liam sank deeper into depression, while struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder and social anxiety. No medicine that physicians tried seemed to make him better, Lisa shares.

Liam was too young in Missouri to receive certain treatments, but he was approved for a different type of therapy called TMS therapy. He would not live to try it. 

Through her grief and despair, Lisa promised herself she would do whatever she could to prevent another parent from suffering this unthinkable fate. And so, in her son’s memory, she started the 501(c)(3) Liam Michael Foundation. The nonprofit is devoted to making the world a better place through mental health awareness and prevention. Through their Butterfly Projects, they offer financial support for mental health services to those in need.

Lisa says they have provided more than $40,000 in mental health care services to date.

“We offer financial assistance for families, whether it's a headstone, or just giving $1,000 toward a casket, we have that,” she explains. “It’s very personal to me because that was the first thing that we had to do with Liam: pay for a very expensive funeral.”

The third Butterfly Project is a happy one; it’s their music project inspired by Liam’s incredible musical ability. The foundation strives to make music accessible to those who are introspectively struggling.

St. Charles native Kathryn Shipley is the foundation's new director of music programs. She is a recording academy member for the Grammys and a member of the Gospel Music Association. "She comes to us with an impressive amount of musical talent and accolades. We're excited to welcome her aboard," Lisa states. 

In fact, the group is planning to host a Music Trivia event during 2024. 

“We have no paid employees on our board. Those that volunteer knew Liam and volunteer out of passion and love,” Lisa says.

Lisa is encouraged by the state of education and the awareness of mental illness and the effects it can have, even with middle school-age kids.

“We recently sat down with students from different high schools, and a couple of colleges on the Mayoral Task Force in St. Charles, who wanted to hear about Liam and our foundation,” says Lisa.” They’re putting together projects for mental health awareness, and we're going to partner alongside them.”

Lisa still works as a registered nurse at Mercy Hospital-St. Louis, but says she will retire during 2024. She plans on working full time for the foundation, doing what she loves best in Liam’s name.

Lisa says she never underestimates the power of a small action. “When I speak at seminars or conferences or whatever we do, it's never about how many people show up, because it can be one person who needs to hear that,” Lisa says, smiling.

Info@liammichaelfoundation.org
LiamMichaelFoundation.org

"We're people who want to leave the world better than we found it."

The Liam Michael Foundation provides mental health support and services for those affected.

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