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By Elisha Fieldstadt

A son of the late Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke launched a fund in her name Saturday — on the day of her memorial service — to benefit people struggling with mental illness.

The cause was close to Duke, who often spoke out about her own difficulties with bipolar disorder.

Nearly $40,000 had been raised for the Patty Duke Mental Health Project by the time a memorial service began in her hometown of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, at noon (2 p.m. ET).

The site for the project, set up by Duke's son, actor Sean Astin, said money raised will go toward mental health public awareness campaigns, lobbying efforts and "a multitude of mental health programs big and small."

Actress Patty Duke attends a ceremony honoring her with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Aug. 17, 2004 in Hollywood, Calif.Vince Bucci / Getty Images, file

Duke, who soared to fame in the 1960s as the star of "The Patty Duke Show," died late last month at the age of 69 after suffering a ruptured intestine.

She was revered for her big screen, small screen and stage performances but also for her advocacy for people suffering with mental health issues. She worked with both the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Related: Oscar-Winning Actress Patty Duke Is Dead at 69

Duke also wrote two books detailing her own challenges with bipolar disorder in the late 1980s and early 1990s, becoming one of the first public figures to speak out about the disease.

"She took her own story and she gave it to the world," said her son, actor Mackenzie Astin, during the memorial service.

"She undertook the steps to take the name of the disease she had lived with so long and give it a face. She wore the diagnosis like a badge of honor," he added. "There are people here today who might not be here if not for mom's work."

Duke, born Anna Marie Duke, is also survived by her husband, Michael Pearce, and their son, Kevin Pearce.

Other family members and friends at Duke's memorial spoke of her accepting nature, spunky attitude, generosity and empathy.