Goldie Hawn inspires at fundraiser for Bethlehem Haven women's shelter
A fresh-faced, young Goldie Hawn had just landed her first in a series of big breaks in Hollywood with a gig dancing on an Andy Griffith variety show, thrusting the budding starlet into high demand.
To her friends and family, Hawn should've been elated about her climb to a 1960s “it girl” — but instead, she realized she felt deeply unsatisfied, the Academy Award-winning actress recalled to an audience of about 350 people during a fundraiser at the Fairmont Pittsburgh, Downtown on Tuesday night.
“I was fearful, and I lost my smile. I was sad. I wasn't happy,” said Hawn, whose mother was born in Uniontown and grew up in Braddock. “My dream, my conviction, my promise to myself — that I was going to be happy — wasn't happening. And I was given all the riches that anybody would ever want.”
Hawn, 70, shared the story of her personal bout with depression to convey her message that all types of people struggle with mental health issues and can benefit by learning skills to cope with life's complex problems. The A-list celebrity headlined the “Be Inspired” fundraiser benefitting the emergency shelter and support services of Bethlehem Haven, a women's homeless shelter in Uptown.
“Resilience is everything. How do we build anew without it?” Hawn said. “How do we build anew without a sense of stability and a sense of optimism?”
Bethlehem Haven and Hawn share in common the goal of using programs, such as meditation, yoga, nature walks and quiet time dubbed “brain breaks,” to help people overcome stress, anxiety and trauma.
In 2002, Hawn took a break from her 30-year acting career to establish The Hawn Foundation, which has since brought its signature MindUP program to more than 1 million children in six countries. Created by experts in neuroscience and psychology, the program aims to improve the academic performance of children and bolster their ability to cope with challenges. Hawn said one of her goals is to get schools to teach young children more about how their brains work and how mental exercises like meditation can physically reduce stress.
“I have been led in this direction because I couldn't bear to see children suffer,” Hawn said, “and so many of our children come to school with so much suffering.”
The Hawn Foundation is working on adapting the MindUP program for adult women. Bethlehem Haven plans to use it to build on a Highmark Foundation-funded wellness program it began in April.
“Our moms need to know it. Our soldiers with PTSD are learning this now,” said Hawn, noting she benefitted from cognitive therapy as well as discovering in 1972 her passion for meditation. “So the fact that you're bringing us in is so vitally important to our women and to our children.”
The fundraiser also honored two individuals whom board members say have been the most important people to Bethlehem Haven's progress: Dr. Edward J. Donnelly III, a UPMC primary care physician and longtime Bethlehem Haven board member; and Marilyn Sullivan, a registered nurse and former executive director of Bethlehem Haven.
“The extraordinary power of these two people is what greatness looks like in this sector,” The Heinz Endowments CEO Grant Oliphant said.
The event was expected to raise more than $300,000 for Bethlehem Haven.
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514 or firstname.lastname@example.org.