Q&A: DMAX Foundation’s Laurie Maxwell

The nonprofit director shares what she’s passionate about.

As the executive director of Bryn Mawr’s nonprofit DMAX Foundation, Laurie Maxwell gives young adults a safe environment to have conversations about life’s difficulties. The organization was started after Maxwell and her husband lost their son to suicide, in the hopes of stomping out stigmas surrounding mental illness.

1. Joni Mitchell.  Favorite lyric: My analyst told me that I was right out of my head.

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2. Tennis at St. Albans Swim & Tennis Club. “I had a knee operation, and I couldn’t play for five years.”

3. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.  “It’s written from a dog’s perspective and very uplifting.”

4. Burstein chicken. “That’s my signature dish. I love to cook.”

5. Pretty Woman.“A classic, of course, with Richard Gere.” 

Laurie Maxwell

MLT: How does it help students?

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LM: It welcomes all students: those who are concerned about the issue and don’t have a mental illness and those who have mental illness and are seeking help. DMAX clubs on campus are intimate settings where open conversations take place and fun activities are planned to create a close community among members. It’s important to a have different environment to talk about issues because maybe the student doesn’t feel comfortable talking about them with a group, but opens up while playing Frisbee.

MLT: What’s the most rewarding part of your work?

LM: People said how brave we were when we lost Dan, but I didn’t feel brave. Doing this, DMAX, kept me alive. My husband and I had to persevere through a lot of obstacles. People told us it couldn’t be done and that we were taking on something too big. But now it’s impacting people and keeping them alive. We get a lot of testimonials that tell us students were lost and lonely before DMAX. The students feel that this is a missing element on campus or an unmet need.

MLT: What’s next for DMAX?

LM: Our focus right now is on college campuses in Philadelphia. We have an internship program that works with students who work on starting a DMAX cub on their campus.

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MLT: What is It Takes a Caring Community?

LM: Our major event this year, It Takes a Caring Community, will take place on April 3 at the Shipley School in Bryn Mayr. There will be several speakers there, one of them being retired California patrol officer, Sergeant Briggs who was known as the Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge—he saved over 200 people from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. The focus there will be how to talk and listen to people who need help.

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