To know Lake Forest’s Katie Ford is to love her. I don’t think she has ever met anyone she couldn’t connect with. She’s known for easy smile, her quick laugh, her immense talent for arranging flowers, and her endless positivity.
So it may have come to the surprise of some when two years ago, Katie turned to Facebook and bravely told the story of her battle with obsessive-compulsive disorder with intrusive thoughts.
“I’m so happy that I shared my story,” says Katie. “At first I was terrified about going public with my illness,” she adds, who at the time of her social media post had been seeking treatment for her illness for three years. “My goal was to help others realize that they had no reason to be ashamed about what they were dealing with. Keeping an open dialogue going about mental health issues is the only way to break the barriers and the stigmas that go along with it.”
The reaction to Katie’s post was overwhelming. Hundreds and hundreds of people applauded her courage, while others privately messaged her for advice for where to find support.
“Even though it’s been two years since my post, I still hear from at least one person each week who is looking for help,” Katie adds.
In the midst of Katie sharing her story, she channeled her creative energies in another direction by making one of her life-long dreams come true and launching Flowers by Katie Ford.
“I’ve always been so inspired by the beauty of flowers and the joy they bring to others,” Katie says. “It truly fills my heart to create a beautiful arrangement.” While arrangements are at the core of Katie’s business, she loves collaborating with event and wedding planners. “This is all so much more than I could ever have hoped it would be.”
It wasn’t long before a newcomer to town, lululemon, saw Katie’s beautiful floral work, heard her story of survival, and knew they wanted to partner with her. They named Katie a lululemon ambassador this last July.
“It was one of the best days of my life,” Katie remembers, who was surprised in her studio by a crew of enthusiastic lululemon staff announcing her selection as one of their prized ambassadors. “But I have to be honest, after they left, I had to look up what it meant to be an ‘ambassador,'” she says with a laugh. But Katie quickly realized that her new role would allow her to live her personal mission of spreading joy through flowers and increasing awareness for mental health.
Tomorrow, October 10, on World Mental Health Day, Katie has partnered with lululemon to host a mental health panel discussion at Gorton Community Center called Break The Stigma. Starting at 6:30 p.m. in the Stuart Family Room, Katie and seven others will briefly share their journeys of survival or how they are helping those overcome this disease. Forever Om’s Kelsey Stoll (another lululemon ambassador), Dave Ohlmuller of Peloton of One, and LEAD’s Andy Duran are among the locals who will be serving on the panel as well.
“I think awareness is everything,” says Katie. “My personal hope is that anyone who is suffering with a mental illness or loves someone who is will come to our event and know that they are never alone.”
Break the Stigma is a free event and open to the public. Doors will open at 6 p.m. Gorton Community Center is located at 400 E. Illinois Road in Lake Forest.
Katie Ford’s portrait on this page is by the amazing Kerri Sherman.