By Patty Fantasia
Photo credit: Patty Fantasia
“Taking Off the Mask” Gala and Masquerade Ball Benefits Trauma Survivors

On the evening of Saturday April 30, 2011 The Hands of Comfort Foundation launched its first annual “Taking Off the Mask” Gala and Masquerade Ball at the Rumors Boutique Hotel. Produced by event planner/producer Jeff Grinstein, amid the fanfare of good food, live music, poems, songs, a silent auction and a fashion show held by the beautifully lit and decorated pool area, the organization’s message rang out loud and clear: people are not alone and when trauma and depression strike everybody needs a place where they can find help and that is what The Hands of Comfort Foundation hopes to create in Las Vegas.

Patrina McDonald, founder of and the foundation, suffered a tragic, life altering loss when her husband committed suicide two years ago. She explained how she’d met him at the age of 15 and that they’d been married for 20 years and had three children. On January 6, 2009, the same day she discovered she was pregnant with the couple’s 4th child, she found out he’d taken his life. Patrina related that although she had lots of people around her she’d felt alone and in need of support. She described how her husband had kissed his family good-bye and left for work before going missing for 24 hours and then how she’d felt displaced when she received the news about his death. Overwhelmed by confusion and anguish, she went to view his body and at that moment realized that everything happening was just about him. She kissed him even though he couldn’t respond and come back to life. She noticed the dried tears on his face and thought about the dark, dreary moment when he decided that his family would be better off without him. At his point Patrina tried hard to be a superwoman. She spoke about coming from a culture of ambition and accomplishment and the efforts to live up to expectations. Trying to be everything to everyone finally caught up with her two years later. Last October she spent three weeks in a deep depression before deicing to lay down the mask, take off the cape and go get help. It was at this point that she decided that her mission would be to make sure her husband’s death wouldn’t be in vain and that she would find a way to help others in need by providing a comfortable, warm and welcoming environment where they could find support. Her plans include providing a 24 hour crisis or comfort line people can call, which should be available sometime this summer, and then to open up a walk-in location. The goal is to create a space where people can reach out and speak with an unbiased third party, something Patrina feels is key in dealing with depression because as she explained when an event happens the people surrounding you quite often feel the same way. “Your trauma is their trauma,” she explained.She believes that depression and the suicidal bouts that often accompany it are part of a major and preventable public health crisis and wants to offer tools to assist in the healing process. She spoke about the need to recreate a new life and how depression leads to reclusiveness, a state she is hoping to combat by offering mixers and retreats along with counseling and educational programs related to grief, depression and suicide, which is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States. Patrina said that in Nevada the statistics are even higher with suicide being the 6th leading cause of death and 404 people choosing to end their own lives last year.







Among the other speakers, who were also honored with awards during the fundraiser were three-time Grammy Award winning jazz vocalist and Tony Award winning stage actress Dee Dee Bridgewater, poet and author of “Black Daisy in a White Limousine” Yashi Brown; President of the Las Vegas Urban Chamber of Commerce Hannah Brown; and Lieutenant LaShanda Holmes, who is the first African American female helicopter pilot in the United States Coast Guard. All four of these women have suffered from mental trauma in their lifetimes, openly shared some of those experiences and explained why they strongly feel the need to support the Hands of Comfort Foundation.

Dee Dee talked about being a jazz singer living out of hotels on the road for 25 years and how this led to a state of depression beginning in 2000. She felt like she was in a black hole suffering from extreme fatigue and on the brink of physical collapse and then her despair worsened when her son, who was also suffering from depression, took 100 Extra Strength Tylenols in a suicide attempt. Many don’t’ realize that depression is hereditary and Dee Dee decided to get help after witnessing his miraculous recovery. The experience is still too raw for him to speak about and it devastated his mother, who sought treatment at Montevista Hospital. She stressed the importance of having a support system and for realizing that “you’re not alone.” One of the main messages of the foundation is that everyone has problems and can feel alienated or like they don’t belong or fit in and they need someone to talk to before making that final choice and taking their own lives. They want people to be aware that depression can be triggered by different types of losses, not just the death of a loved one. Changes in employment or health, financial problems, divorce and other disruptions can also be factors.

Along with the emotional testimonials and awards presentations, the fundraising kick off featured a silent auction that included tickets donated by Clint Holmes to his performances in July at the Suncoast and a fashion show featuring male and female models with clothing provided by Lane Bryant and Las Vegas based clothing boutique Patty’s Closet. Another highlight was an auction for an original piece created that night by artist Jennifer Main, which vividly and colorfully captured the Hands Of Comfort’s “Taking Off the Mask” theme.

48 Hour Film Project Awards

The 2011 Las Vegas 48 Hour Film Project Awards Gala and Screening was held at 7pm on Wednesday evening April 27th at the Century 16 Suncoast Theatres inside the Suncoast Hotel and Casino with a free after-party following at The Beauty Bar located 517 Freemont Street that was hosted by Neon Reverb Film Festival Director Maggie Leon.

The top prize for Best Film went to the Thompson Brothers Mike and Jerry for their entry “The Wrong Taco Shop” and was presented by the Las Vegas 48 Hour Film Project Producer Derek Stonebarger. The Thompsons, whose earlier collaborations produced the well received indie film “Thor at the Bus Stop” and the music video “A Crowd of Small Adventures” received a $500 check from lawyer Glen Lerner and the opportunity to screen their winning film at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012 in addition to the award. Producers of the First Place Runner Up for Best Film “The Guitar of Ogden” received $200 from Lerner, while the team that made Second Place Runner Up “Lady and the Chap” got $150.00. Additional sponsors included Fridays, the NAB Show, Century Theatres, Whole Foods and Theatre7.


For those unfamiliar with the event, The 48 Hour Film Project takes place for one wild and sleepless weekend during which a team of filmmakers write, shoot, edit and score a short. Once teams are set up on Friday night a character, prop, line of dialogue and genre are given that must be included in the movie, which must be completed 48 hours later. In 2010, nearly 40,000 filmmakers made 3,000 films in 80 cities on five continents and this year the event has continued to grow. For the shorts made by the 2011 Las Vegas filmmaking teams to qualify they had to meet the following guidelines: incorporate chopsticks, feature a musician named Victor or Vanessa Black and use the line “My motto? Mind your own business.”

Awards were chosen in several categories including the Four Audience Favorite Awards, which were selected among the four Screening Groups of films that were shown at the Suncoast on April 13 and 14. These winners were the first announced by Stonebarger once the ceremonies were made and they are as follows: Group A: “Zombie Intervention” from Exzile Films won with “Lady and the Chap” from The Ruse/Aversion Films coming in as Runner Up; Group B: “The Wrong Taco Shop” from Light Forge Studios came in 1st with “He’s Just Not That Into C.P.U.” by Doing it Big Productions making it to Runner Up; Group C: “Where is Vincent Black” from Coolita took 1st prize with “SchoolHouse Rocked” from Killer Boots Man! coming in second; and in Group D: “The Guitar of Ogden” from ByerFilms was the winner followed by Runner Up “Omerta” by Ruff Kut Productions.

The rest of the Award Winners are listed below:

BEST ACTOR: Spencer Dewees, “Lady and The Chap”
BEST ACTRESS: Dana Bomar, “The Wrong Taco Shop”
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: “Omerta”, Rough Kut Productions
BEST COSTUMES: “Lady and the Chap” by the Ruse, Aversion Films
BEST DIRECTING: “The Guitar of Ogden”, Byer Films
BEST EDITING: “The Guitar of Ogden”, Byer Films
BEST FILM: “The Wrong Taco Shop”, Light Forge Studios
BEST LINE OF DIALOG: “Hungry for Love”, Paper Slate Pictures
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “The Last Track”, Murder Mitten
BEST SOUND DESIGN: “Omerta”, Rough Kut Productions
BEST SPECIAL FX: “The Wrong Taco Shop”, Light Forge Studios
BEST USE OF CHARACTER: Zombie Intervention, Exzile Films
BEST USE OF GENRE: “Lady and the Chap” by the Ruse, Aversion films
BEST USE OF PROP: “Where is Victor Black” by Coolita
BEST WRITING: “The Guitar of Ogden”, Byer Films

For more information about the 48 Hour Film Project and a list of all of the films in the 2010 Las Vegas competition visit their website at