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11-year-old hosts 2nd annual youth mental health rally as NC’s top health official speaks

<i>WLOS via CNN Newsource</i><br/>For the second year
WLOS via CNN Newsource
For the second year

By WLOS staff

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    FRANKLIN, North Carolina (WLOS) — For the second year, a young girl organized a youth mental health rally in Franklin — and this year, the she attracted the likes of the state’s top health official as the keynote speaker.

Gracie Parker, age 11, led the Why Not Us? Rally Sunday, April 28, in Franklin, with keynote speaker Kody Kinsley, secretary for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Gracie’s mother passed away due to substance abuse when Gracie was a baby, and since the age of five, Gracie has been advocating for particularly elementary-aged children facing trauma and mental health struggles.

11-year-old hosts 2nd annual youth mental health rally as NC’s top health official speaks

The rally’s first year was 2023.

“Kids can’t learn unless they’re healthy and well. They can’t be healthy and well unless we care about their behavioral health,” Kinsley said. “Gracie’s been all over the state. I met her at a mental health town hall in Cherokee about a year ago. She’s also been to Washington, D.C. to advocate for the importance of mental health. That’s an issue that I’m really passionate about at our department.”

The event gave visitors the opportunity to learn about resources to help cope and improve behavioral health.

Gracie and Kinsley both echoed their hope of seeing the rally — and its impact — grow each year going forward.

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