More than 350 sponsors and guests were in attendance for The Menninger Clinic’s 13th Annual Signature Luncheon featuring former pro football player Ryan Leaf on May 4, 2023, at the Hilton Houston Post Oak hotel. The “journey to recovery” was the focus of this year’s event, which raised over $375,000 toward a new Center for Addiction Medicine and Recovery at The Clinic.
Substance misuse surged during the pandemic, increasing the risk of addiction for many people. With support from luncheon donors, the new center aims to reduce the stigma of addiction and create greater access to evidence-based treatment options for people with substance use disorders.
“At Menninger, we don’t believe that one size fits all,” said Daryl Shorter, MD, medical director of Addictions Services. “Each patient is different and therefore their treatment and their paths to recovery should also be different.”

The luncheon was chaired by The Menninger Clinic Foundation board members Poppi Massey and Susie Peake and honored local sober high school Archway Academy for its work supporting the education and recovery of teens with substance use disorder. 


Keynote speaker Leaf was interviewed on stage by award-winning journalist Steven Devadanam, who revealed he was treated at Menninger in 2009 for depression and struggles with alcohol. Devadanam credited Leaf with inspiring him to share his story.


“I have been so inspired by Ryan Leaf. His accountability and his triumph taught me a lot,” Devadanam said.


A Heisman trophy finalist and second overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, Leaf became known as one of the NFL’s greatest draft “busts,” playing four seasons before depression and addiction contributed to the end of his professional football career. During the interview, Leaf described being in the spotlight as an elite athlete most of his life and his difficulties dealing with failure. 


“In the darkest of moments, whether it was a reporter telling a negative story about me or a fan yelling at me, I had no way to deal with that in a healthy, positive way,” he said.


Leaf said that being accepted into a treatment facility, receiving a mental health diagnosis and focusing on service to others has helped him to turn his life around. 


“I’m okay with who I am,” Leaf said. “I’m this flawed human being, like everybody else, who is trying to be better every day.”


Watch a recording of the luncheon program and be sure to sign up for our email list to stay updated on our next event.


Photo (from left): President and CEO Armando Colombo; Director of Addictions & Recovery Services Sonia Roschelli, LCSW-S, LCDC; Ryan Leaf; Archway Academy Executive Director Sasha Coles, LMFT, LPC; Medical Director of Addictions Services Daryl Shorter, MD.