Karena Dawn Collabs on a Texas Wine to Raise funds for Mental Health Awareness

The Tone It Up co-founder (and Austinite!) collaborated with Slate Theory Winery on a red and a white to benefit The Big Silence

By Jennifer Birn – August 29, 2023
Photos Courtesy of Bobby Gold

Karena Dawn became a popular fixture in people’s living rooms when Tone It Up’s fitness classes became exceptionally popular during lockdown. Dawn still co-owns the company, that also sells nutrition products and has an app with healthy recipes and meditations in addition to workouts. It’s aim is to ‘empower you to live your healthiest, happiest, and most confident life.’ But, much of her attention these days is focused on The Big Silence, a non-profit that began as a memoir and she turned into a foundation she says, “cultivates conversations and offers resources and programs to de-stigmatize and change the culture around mental health.”

Dawn, who herself has been open about her struggles and journey with mental health,  recently joined forces with Slate Theory Winery in Fredericksburg to craft a pair of wines, “The Therapist” and “The Patient,” that raise funds for The Big Silence, and speak up about mental health right on their labels. Austin Fit caught up with Dawn to learn more.

Karena Dawn

You found success co-founding Tone It Up, how does fitness improve mental health?
Moving your body boots up those feel-good hormones such as serotonin and endorphins! We can all use a brain boost like that to stay focused, energized, and mentally well.

What are other methods of self-care you practice for your mental health?
Exercise is a form of self-care but other ways to boost your mental health are getting enough sleep, meditation, eating nutritious food, staying hydrated and general good hygiene.

When did you start The Big Silence?
I founded the Big Silence Foundation in 2021, but my path there began by starting to write my Big Silence memoir in 2017. I had been wanting to bring mental health to the forefront for many years, but again, there’s that stigma. Finally, I had my own courage to help end it and start a movement!

Why do you think it’s important people speak up about their mental health challenges rather than try to deal with them on their own?
I can tell you from my own experiences and all the stories that are shared in the community and on the Big Silence podcast that the healing begins once you start sharing and start asking for help. You then find out that you’re not alone. That’s when the comfort moves in.

How did the collaboration with Slate Theory Winery come about?
On my first visit to Fredericksburg, TX, someone recommended I visit Slate Theory Winery. I connected with The Jones Family immediately over the winery’s mental health advocacy and their shared desire to have more open conversations about mental illness. I shared my personal story and left copies of my memoir. A sense of camaraderie grew around the desire to break the silence and bring attention to mental health issues.

Then in October 2022, Slate Theory Winery and The Big Silence Foundation came together to build awareness and advocate for acceptance and celebrate World Mental Health Day with a pop-up event featuring music, meditation and conversation in The Cave. From that day we decided to do a collab!

Karena Dawn

How hands-on were you in creating the wine?
It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. Just kidding it was so fun working with their wine maker to taste wines and different grape varietals. We wanted to create a story for each wine, so we worked with the family and Rachel, TBS’s Executive Director, to share the story of ‘Therapist’ and ‘The Patient’ on the back label. Cody Jones designs all of the unique labels with his artwork and the bottles truly are a collector’s piece. I keep them all and use them as candle holders in my home.

Ashley Greene (of Twilight fame), narrates the video for the collaboration, how did that come about?
Ashley and her husband Paul are good friends with a passion for the arts and mental health. When they heard about the project they wanted to be a part! Paul, of Hummingway Productions, created this stunning and emotional short film with Ashley as the voice.

What TBS accomplishment are you most proud of to date?
We have accomplished so much that I’m proud of, but the number one is hearing from the community about the lives we’ve changed and the lives we’ve saved. That is why we work so hard to end the stigma surrounding mental health.

What are your hopes for the future of TBS?
To keep the conversations and community thriving and growing.

Anything you’d like to add?
Donations benefit our programs including ‘Therapy for All’, youth programming and our upcoming mental health app.

Follow Karena at @KarenaDawn and learn more about The Big Silence at https://thebigsilence.com or on Instagram at @the.big.silence.

Karena Dawn

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