Connie Martin couldn’t imagine $50,000 just falling on her lap a year ago.
But that’s essentially what happened to the executive director of Maryvale Mental Health Centre as organizers of the Stigma Enigma fundraising group presented a cheque for $50,000 to the centre Thursday.
“This is huge,” said an emotional Martin. “We’ll be able to help 50 kids over the year that are in danger of harming themselves. We would never have foreseen it. And it was so surprising because these wonderful people came out of nowhere.”
The Stigma Enigma campaign was the brainchild of Dr. Pat Smith, who endured a pair of family tragedies when his niece and nephew took their own lives.
“I’m surprised at how generous people have been and so much energy has come from the community,” said Smith. “It’s been really heartwarming for me. I’m also surprised at how well everything came together and we were able to accomplish our mission statements.”
Provincial funding for mental health providers such as Maryvale has been in decline and Smith formed the group to help fill the void.
“There are a lot of people who recognize that we have deficiencies in the mental health care system,” said Smith.
Martin and some basketball buddies formed Stigma Enigma and held a fundraiser at Walkerville Brewery and a basketball tournament banquet featuring guest speakers such as former Detroit Lions quarterback Eric Hipple.
“We really just are really grassroots,” said Smith. “We don’t even have our website up yet. We plan on doing a lot bigger and better next year. I’ve met a lot of people who have offered to volunteer. At the time, I didn’t have the positions but I kept names and I’m going to be calling them.”
Smith said next year fundraising events can be moved to larger venues.
Martin said she was amazed at the organizational skills of Smith and his friends.
“We had never had any connection with any one of them and they had heard about what we were going through,” said Martin.
“They said we’re not going to let this carry on, we’re going to do something about it. It’s absolutely amazing. They did everything. It was like planning a huge wedding with the details these guys had to sort out. But they did it. We would have had to hire somebody to do it. It was a full-time job.”