"Alan was an amazing kid -- we didn't see any of it coming," said his mother Xiaofang Chen. "He passed away due to his illness, and we felt strongly that if we had known something about mental illness way before he got sick, we might have picked up something and helped him much earlier before he reached out to us and he might have recovered. But we did not know what to look for. We want to help other parents to be more educated about mental illness by carrying out our mission.
"There is a lot of misunderstanding about mental illness and suicide due to mental illness," she continued. "I don't think Alan had a choice. We need cures for mental illness so people who have them will not be attacked by suicidal thoughts. If they are attacking you 24/7, it is very hard. That is why we will support fundamental research for cures.
"Once we share the information about mental illness -- and people understand it's an illness -- the stigma will disappear."
On their website, AlanHuFoundation.org, Chen tells of seeing an extraordinary future in Alan's eyes at his birth, which continued through his childhood.
"He was sweet, independent, gifted, poetic, musical, creative and athletic," she writes.
Alan began to read at age 3 and throughout his childhood he used books to learn everything, from origami to how to put on a magic show to how to install the family's garage door opener. His interests included violin, chess, baseball, Spanish, Chinese, Tae-kwon-do, archery, swimming, piano, martial arts, cello, tennis and weightlifting.
Alan also never missed a chance to promote his younger brother, Michael, and he considered his many friends to be part of his family.
But by June 2016, things had changed within Alan, and he went to his parents for help after he researched it.
"It could be depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Asperger's syndrome, or something else," Chen recalls Alan saying.
They immediately went to his pediatrician, then a psychologist and a psychiatrist. After years of help, including a treatment center and a private school, they thought Alan was on the way to recovery. But he died by suicide on Jan. 7, 2018.
"Alan was surrounded by doting parents, his brother and grandparents, supportive teachers and friends, but his mental diseases still made him felt extremely lonely," Chen writes. "His pain was real and unbearable, yet it was invisible."
His parents started the Alan Hu Foundation to carry out Alan's wish to bring a better day to others who suffer from mental diseases.
Alan, a talented cellist, played in the string orchestras when attending Harvest Park Middle School and Amador Valley High, and his fellow musicians were among his best friends.
"Alan always enjoyed music, even when he was very sick," Chen said.
Board members of the fledgling foundation, which include Marsha McInnis, Mark Rahman and Lynn Gatehouse, agreed that a concert would be a fitting tribute to Alan's memory, and an appropriate way to introduce the organization to the community. Amador Valley High music teacher Mark Aubel stepped up to plan the program and direct the concert, which will include student ensembles from both Amador Valley and Harvest Park and many of Alan's friends and classmates.
Featured soloists will be professional musicians and teachers Brady Anderson, Abraham Becker, Yuting Chen, Beth Tomlin and Ewen Tsai.
Money raised at the concert will go toward the foundation's 2019 projects: speakers to inform the public on the latest scientific research on mental disorders, and sponsoring a high school mental health club.
Future projects are being planned for suicide prevention programs for schools; grants awarded for research; and an Alan Hu Foundation Scholarship for students who plan to study psychiatry or psychology.
The concert is at 4 p.m. May 18 at Lynnewood United Methodist Church, 4444 Black Ave. There is no charge but donations will be gratefully accepted; attendees are requested to RSVP by May 10 at AlanHuFoundation.org.
In addition to the musical performances, there will be a silent auction, as well as representatives from local mental health organizations to provide resources and answer questions. Doors open at 3:30 p.m.
Tribute to a friend
What: "Bridge over Troubled Waters"
Who: Musician friends of the Alan Hu Foundation
When: 4 p.m., Saturday, May 18
Where: Lynnewood United Methodist Church, 4444 Black Ave.
Tickets: Free but donations are appreciated. RSVP at AlanHuFoundation.org.
Editor's note: Anyone in need of support can contact Crisis Support Services of Alameda County's 24-hour confidential crisis line at 800-309-2131 or CrisisSupport.org, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, via text at 800-799-4889, chat or at SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.
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