On the lawn at CAS for the WonderBus Music & Arts Festival, Los Angeles singer Andrew McMahon and his band had the crowd on its feet with their big sound, McMahon jumping from playing the piano to dancing on top of it. He then surprised everyone by climbing into an inflatable unicorn and continuing to sing as hundreds of hands passed him overhead, returning him safely to the stage just as the song ended.

At one point, McMahon slowed things down. Sitting at the piano, he brought the conversation around to theme of the festival — support for mental illness and suicide prevention, particularly for youth — by introducing a song he wrote during a difficult time in his own adolescence.

McMahon was one of several WonderBus performers who helped to spread the message of the inaugural festival to its approximately 11,000 attendees in August. Flora Cash, Magic Giant and Chelsea Cutler were among the artists who also addressed the subject often speaking from personal experience.

Music creates community and a sense of belonging, and the setting seemed to reach its target audience of teens and young adults, who commingled with families and adults of all ages. The festival’s goal was to start a new dialogue around misunderstood mental illnesses.

The festival captured the mental health theme using #LALALA, which served as both a nod to the music and an acronym for bringing mental illness out of the shadows: Listen, Ask, Love, Act, Link and Advocate. #LALALA offers an actionable, honest and open way for friends and family to open their hearts to someone who might be struggling with depression or anxiety.

In the end, the message and the music came together as effortlessly as the #LALALA beach balls being tossed around by the crowd. Several educators stopped by the WonderBus booth to thank organizers for shinning a light on a topic that is important for so many young people.

Building on the event’s success, The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center will “explore how to take the festival’s message of supporting friends and loved ones dealing with suicide or depression into the community,” said Adrienne Shinn, marketing director for The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Neurological Institute.

“I will always look back on this weekend as a pivotal moment and impetus for our movement,” says Luan Phan, MD, chair of The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health. “We will move forward boldly from the momentum of this weekend and the collective efforts that lead up to it and work even harder to change and save lives.”

WonderBus blossomed from the relationship between The Shipyard, Columbus’ leading marketing agency, The Elevation Group, one of Ohio’s premier music and festival management companies and a private equity partnership. Proceeds from the event included a $50,000 donation to support The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health.

“I think this is the beginning of something that will really last for many years,” says Shipyard CEO and Chairman Rick Milenthal. “People are finally talking about mental health.... (B)y opening up that conversation, we are going to be able to make change in this space.”


We appreciate the support from local media! Please enjoy the two audio interviews shared below. 

Life in 614 – Columbus Dispatch

What Matters with Mindy and Mikaela – News Radio 610-WTVN

– Begin at minute 21 for the WonderBus segment

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