Patty Duke, TV star and Oscar-winning actress for the 1963 movie “The Miracle Worker,” died Tuesday (March 29) of sepsis from a ruptured intestine. She leaves behind a husband, Michael Pearce, and three sons — Kevin Pearce from her current marriage, and Sean and Mackenzie Astin, also actors, from previous relationships.

To honor his late mother, Sean has started a CrowdRise mental health project, which is a cause that was near and dear to Duke’s heart, as she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1982.

“My mother’s life touched tens of millions of people. Her ground breaking portrayal of iconic American legend Helen Keller launched a career that would span six decades. First on Broadway and then on the silver screen, Patty Duke’s characterization of the extraordinary development of the blind/deaf child brought global attention to the plight of people living with those challenges,” writes Astin.

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“The nature of this kind of illuminating and compassionate work become the sacred mission of her life. She became a voice for the voiceless, a reassuring presence for the scared, the intimidated and the lost. She was a healer of many souls and a champion for so many in need.”

Astin goes on to detail his mother’s championing of civil rights and speaking out publicly about her own battle with mental illness.

“My mom took her place as a mental health advocate in the greatest tradition of noble leadership,” he says. “Before her passing, before the suffering became too great, we talked about how the core mission of her mental health work might continue beyond her life. This initiative will fuel a multi-level approach to achieving results for those suffering with mental illness and their families and communities. Public awareness campaigns, lobbying efforts, and supporting a multitude of mental health programs big and small will be organized, prioritized and vigorously pursued.”

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The funds raised by the CrowdRise project will help establish the Patty Duke Mental Health Initiative. The money will go toward legal expenses, forming a board of directors, hiring staff and all the other costs associated with a project of this size.

“Thank you for your love and support. On behalf of my mother, her husband, her children and grandchildren, her family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, supporters, partners and her adoring fans, I give a great big hug and much much love,” Astin concludes.

Posted by:Andrea Reiher

TV critic by way of law school, Andrea Reiher enjoys everything from highbrow drama to clever comedy to the best reality TV has to offer. Her TV heroes include CJ Cregg, Spencer Hastings, Diane Lockhart, Juliet O'Hara and Buffy Summers. TV words to live by: "I'm a slayer, ask me how."