Thomas G. Cavanagh Memorial Fund

Tom and The Lion

The Tom and the Lion Event took place on September 27, 2012 at the RI Convention Center in Providence, RI. The event raised $160,000 for Butler Hospital.

See Providence Journal coverage here:

See recap from Butler Hospital website here:

Below is a description of the "Tom And The Lion" event:

The Storyline

Tom and The Lion is a dual purpose fundraiser.
The first purpose is to create a movement about the increasing number of athletes (scholastic, collegiate, and professional) faced with the debilitating symptoms of mental illness. These athletes are often forced into making short-term decisions that have a negative impact on their long term success. The decisions these athletes are making are career ending, or worse, fatal.

The second purpose of the event is to provide funding to:

  • Support the promotion of the movement via heightened awareness and
  • avail free psychiatric care at Butler Hospital to those who need it.

A 3-Part Event

This event was delivered in 3 distinct and purposeful parts.

Part 1

The Life of Tom Cavanagh
Tom Cavanagh enjoyed great athletic and academic success throughout his life. He attended Harvard University and, upon graduation in 2005, pursued a career as a professional hockey player. In 2008, Tom played in his first NHL hockey game and earned a point 37 seconds into the game (a San Jose Sharks record). As Tom approached his mid-twenties, he developed a severe mental illness. His condition worsened and intensified for three years before ultimately taking his life in January 2011.

Tom was most known for his humble nature and wide set of interests. He thoroughly enjoyed being with family and friends. Tom’s classic move – in hockey and in life – was to befriend other players and people who were not as strong or talented as he was or just did not have much going for them. His humility naturally allowed him to notice and relate best to people who were challenged or struggling. He never sought it out, in fact he did all he could to avoid it, but Tom was often placed at the center of attention in family or social gatherings. People were just naturally attracted to his gentle, humble heart and the uncomplicated way he lived his life. The Cavanagh Family is dedicated to honoring Tom’s life through The Thomas G. Cavanagh Memorial Fund.

Part 2

Dr. Steven Rasmussen explains the biology of the Brain during Mental Illness and Traumatic Brain Injury
Steven A. Rasmussen, MD, MMS in the Interim Chair and Professor of the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the Alpert Medical School and is the Medical Director at Butler Hospital. He has been repeatedly listed among the Best Doctor’s in America as well as the most Highly Cited for Psychiatry.

Dr. Rasmussen is an internationally recognized expert in the course and treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). More recently his primary research interest has been in neurosurgical approaches to intractable OCD and depression and the neurocircuitry of OCD. He is the author or coauthor of over 100 peer reviewed publications and has given many invited presentations around the world. He has been a leader in developing bridges between campus based and hospital based brain science faculty at Brown University.

Part 3

Pat LaFontaine – Competing for Life
A perennial All-Star in the National Hockey League, Pat LaFontaine was not only a great player, but also a great humanitarian in whatever city he represented. That combination was recognized in 2003 when it was announced that LaFontaine would be the first player inducted into both the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Minnesota in the same year.

In 1997 Pat founded The Companions in Courage Foundation. The evolution of this Foundation began during Pat’s years with the Buffalo Sabres. Dedicating much of his off-ice time at Buffalo Children’s Hospital, Pat began to appreciate the power of another personal strengths. “Being with these kids – knowing their smiles, their pain and their courage – changed my life. They taught me about life and death. These children left me with a simple reality: We don’t always have much control over what happens to us, but we do have a choice in how we respond.” And that he did.

In 1998, after 15 years in the NHL, Pat retired prematurely as a result of a series of head traumas suffered throughout his career. After five concussions, Pat battled depression, headaches and memory loss. "As athletes, we are taught to be tough. You get up and shake it off. But you can’t do that with depression. For me, the harder I tried, the worse it got." With support and inspiration from family, friends, and most of all, the kids in those hospitals, competing not for goals, but for life. Pat drew upon their courage and go through the most difficult time of his life. From that point on, Pat’s fight for children took a new meaning and clearly defined where all his time and energy were going to be focused: helping kids through this Foundation.

Butler Hospital

Butler Hospital was founded in 1844, as the first hospital in Rhode Island and one of the first Psychiatric facilities in the country. As a not-for-profit hospital treating psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and neurological disorders, Butler serves as the flagship for The Alpert Medical School of Brown University’s Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior.

Clinically, Butler Hospital serves as the mental health “emergency room” for the State of Rhode Island. People that come to Butler for care are in crisis (i.e., acute). As an acute care health provider, Butler Hospital uses a multidisciplinary team approach to stabilize each patient and connect them to community mental health services upon discharge. Last year, there were 7,322 inpatient admissions to Butler and 15,882 outpatient visits. Patients at Butler Hospital range from the very young to the very old and all ages in between.