Reese Cropper III uses the spotlight of the Hal Glick Distinguished Service Award stage to raise awareness and resources about depression and suicide prevention
Standing before four hundred people who were in attendance to honor him, Reese Cropper III took a moment to reflect on the civic and philanthropic accomplishments that earned him the brightly shining and well-earned light that was upon him. As Cropper prepared to deliver his remarks, the 2017 recipient of the Hal Glick Distinguished Service Award scanned the ballroom at Ocean City’s Clarion Fontainebleau to see family, friends, colleagues, business leaders and elected officials — all proud to know him. Reese knew that such speeches are usually forgettable and rife with thanks for any person they had ever come in contact with. “Not tonight,” he vowed to himself. Nervous and a bit uneasy with all of the attention of the evening, Cropper took a deep breath and began a speech that would be far different, and shockingly more personal, than anyone expected.
Reese Cropper III is a local in the purest sense. Born to Reese F. Cropper Jr. and Margaret Young of Berlin in 1960, he grew up on Gum Point Road and Turville Creek, across from the Glen Riddle Farm, in an area that was perfect for bike rides and playing in the woods. He attended Buckingham Elementary School through the 4th grade and then entered the Worcester Country School (Worcester Preparatory School today), where future headmaster Barry Tull served as his homeroom teacher. After graduating from Worcester Prep in 1978, Reese enrolled at Lynchburg College, where his passion for community involvement was shaped.
Armed with a degree in business administration earned in 1982, Reese returned to the Shore. After obtaining his insurance and real estate licenses, Cropper went to work right away. In 1996 he founded Insurance Management Group. Today, IMG employs more than 20 people, has two office locations and supports clients throughout Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. Reese’s connection to the community and his generous philanthropic efforts are both notable and extensive, as he founded the Berlin Chamber of Commerce, donates a golf tournament each year to Diakonia (its top-grossing fundraiser), has volunteered his time to the March of Dimes and American Cancer Society, among many other charitable organizations, insurance organizations and government boards. Today, he serves on the Worcester Preparatory School Board of Trustees, Calvin B. Taylor Bank’s Board of Directors, Maryland’s Community Association Institute Legislative Committee, Diakonia’s Board of Directors, Peninsula Regional Hospital Foundation’s Board of Directors and the State of Maryland’s Licensing/Liquor Board.
He’s been presented Lynchburg College’s Distinguished Alumni Award, and for years he’s played Santa Claus on Christmas Eve for friends who have young children.
Yet, for all of his many personal, professional and civic successes, Cropper has spent the better part of his adult life suffering from depression. At Lynchburg, after losing his first love, he was introduced to something else he hadn’t known existed: a side of his mind that was vastly dark and desolate, filled with torment, insecurities and emotional voids that date back to his childhood. It is a place of such demons and despair, the handsome young man with a seemingly limitless future nearly ended it all with a shotgun. What follows are excerpts from Cropper’s poignant and moving speech to the guests of the 2017 Hal Glick Distinguished Service Award ceremony.
“Since my college years, and perhaps as a child, I’ve tried to find out why I would swing in and out of terrible dark periods, when I really had no reason to be that way,” Reese said at the top of his speech. “The depressions I speak of are severe. I am not referring to a sad situation that causes sad feelings. I am talking about weeks of chronic illness when I did not want to move forward in life and couldn’t focus on anything.
“It was impossible to find a medical reason for my problems, and during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, depression was not a common illness, nor was it talked about. Depressed people were considered weak or thought of as having no drive and stamina.
“After my college years, I was encouraged to seek psychological help. However, it was difficult for me to enter a counseling center because of the fear someone would see me and recognize me. Instead, I went to offices that were outside our area. I would sit in the lobby, waiting for the counselor, always hiding behind a magazine, held high and in front of my face.
“Why can’t our society be proactive and realize people need help with mental illness? People who suffer on all levels need encouragement to get professional help and not to be degraded when they admit to their chronic depression, or worse, declare they want to end their life. The vortex of pain, anxiety and darkness that consumes a person to the point of suicide is painful and scary. I’m speaking of the dark hole where they end up, seeing no way out other than death. I know because I have been there.
“The feeling of desperation, when you hold a shotgun to your head with a finger on a trigger, is worse than the feeling that death would provide as a more peaceful and better alternative. And when someone goes through this traumatic situation, and 911 is called, the despair and feelings get worse when the police officer promises to only transport you to the hospital but instead puts cuffs on you and loads you in his car.
“Society does not accept mental illness the same as other illnesses. Instead, there are comments about the person being crazy or perhaps they are considered idiots for wanting to resort to such a dramatic end of their life. We need to stop these stigmas. When you look around this room, you would probably be shocked to realize how many people here have either suffered from depression or have lost a friend or loved one to suicide. I can tell you the person lost to suicide would never want you to blame yourself or think you could have prevented it. Their pain and darkness is so deep, it’s hard for healthy-minded people to understand.”
Cropper, along with the Hal Glick Distinguished Service Award committee, raised an event record $130,000 in support of this year’s gala. The funds will be distributed to Temple Bat Yam, the Atlantic General Hospital Foundation and the following three charities selected by Reese for their depression counseling services and suicide prevention efforts:
Rebecca and Leighton Moore Childand Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit
Peninsula Regional Medical Center
In spring 2016, Peninsula Regional Medical Center and Adventist HealthCare Behavioral Health & Wellness Services joined the Peninsula Regional Medical Center Foundation to celebrate the opening of the new Rebecca and Leighton Moore Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit at PRMC. These specialists offer outpatient behavioral healthcare for children as young as 4 years old.
The highly skilled clinical team provides compassionate behavioral healthcare to help patients successfully manage their illness and maintain optimal activity at home or school. The Outpatient Wellness Clinic treats children with anxiety and stress; ADHD; bipolar disorder; conduct disorders; depression; grieving and loss; obsessive-compulsive disorder; personality disorders; post-traumatic stress disorder; and schizophrenia.
In addition to outpatient care for children and adolescents, PRMC offers adult inpatient and partial hospitalization services.
Worcester Youth and Family
Counseling Services, Inc.
Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services, Inc. (WYFCS) has been serving the Worcester County community through programs that include comprehensive counseling, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), family-connection services and youth activities since 1975. Located in Berlin, WYFCS is increasing awareness about mental health, advocating for abused and neglected children, providing community resources and education, which is truly making a difference in the lives of the people in the community.
The Jesse Klump Suicide Awareness Prevention Program
In early 2009, the tragic death of Snow Hill’s Jesse Klump cast a pall over the entire community. The Jesse Klump Suicide Awareness and Prevention Program’s objective is to end the threat of suicide in Worcester County and beyond through a program of outreach and education.
In addition to several community organized events throughout the year, each month the program hosts a support group meeting for those who have lost loved ones to suicide and who are having difficulty coming to terms with their grief.
“I hope my candor with all of you tonight will make you more aware of people suffering from mental health issues. It’s literally all around us,” Cropper said, as his speech approached its conclusion. “It’s similar to when you buy a new car. You never realized before how many other people have the same color and model until you have one of your own. Well, maybe now you will begin to recognize how many other people need help dealing with chronic severe mental pain and the issues it causes.”
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