Ann Brennan and her son Ethan started raising money for suicide prevention when he was 15 years old and a student at Severna Park High School.
“We did these crazy long 24-hour walks through the woods, just the two of us,” she says, noting that at the time Ethan was battling depression and was beginning to self-harm.
“We did that two years in a row. And each time we did it, we raised a little bit of money, which was great,” she says. “But we kept saying, ‘it’s great, but we’re not raising awareness, especially not here in the community.’ ”
So when Brennan came up with the idea for Burgers & Bands, she thought, “This is this is exactly what we’ve been talking about for the last two years.”
Within a day, Brennan and Ethan teamed up with their friends and local realtors Jennifer and Kevin Bonk, and after a few phone calls had the Severna Park Taphouse booked, and the Priddy Academy started lining up bands. The rest, they say, is history.
In May 2017, the first Burgers & Bands for Suicide Prevention raised $8,000. “I couldn’t believe how much people donated. It was awesome,” Brennan says. It was the beginning of what the event is today: an eight-hour festival featuring a great lineup of bands, who all donate their time to the cause, plus dancing, food, and local mental health resources on hand like NAMI and the county’s Mobile Crisis Team so people can get resources at the festival. But, says Brennan, “It’s not sad. We don’t do anything sad. There’s no sad speeches. There’s no sad songs.” It’s all about raising awareness.
The community has urged Burgers & Bands to grow in Severna Park, but it has reached capacity at the Severna Park Taphouse, which now boasts the outdoor stage as well as an indoor acoustic stage.
The money raised has grown significantly as well, with last year’s event raising $80,000. After the first event in 2017, all of the money raised went to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. But now, says Brennan, in addition to donating $10,000 to the foundation for each event, Burgers & Bands has shifted to giving the money to local causes.
After giving $2,000 to Severna Park High School to bring in a person to speak about suicide, Brennan realized she could give the money to local schools and organizations with a need. Since then, her organization has given grant money to local elementary schools for peace walks, comfort boxes, mindfulness programs and other mental health causes.
With the annual Severna Park Burgers & Bands running well, Brennan decided to organize a second event in Annapolis. Burgers & Bands Annapolis will take place on October 20, from noon to 8 p.m., featuring the Kelly Bell Band, the Great Heights Band, Mojo
Ann and Ethan Brennan
Bozo’s Electric Circus, Mac + Blue, Dan Haas and more. The event will be held at the Byzantium at SS Constantine & Helen Green Orthodox Church and will have two stages—an outdoor stage and an indoor, acoustic stage. The Byzantium will be providing the food, which has led Brennan to lovingly call the event “Burgers, Bands & Baklava.”
According to Burgers & Bands, “It’s a community event, a party, and a wildly fun time. But most importantly it is an event with a purpose, to show people in Anne Arundel County, no matter what your age, you are not alone.”
You can buy tickets ($15; free for kids under 12) at burgersandbands.org.