I dedicate my allotted volunteer days at Softchoice to helping others, but three and half years ago my life, and my family’s lives, changed forever.
We were all at a loss when my brother-in-law, Tyler, chose to take his life. How could a young, good-looking and funny guy like Tyler want to end his life when he’d had so much going for him?
After the shock wore off, and the dust began to settle, we sat down as a family and decided that we didn’t want anyone to feel the same pain and loss. That is how “Ty’s Tourney” came to life. With the help of Ty’s close friends and family, we hosted our first hockey tournament to promote mental health awareness in 2013.
In 2013, with 80 players and little idea of what we were doing, we raised over $30,000 to donate to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Halton Region Branch in Ontario. We decided to host another tournament the following year, based on the outpouring of requests we received from people who wanted to get involved and the positive feedback about the impact we had made.
In 2014, we opened up registration for another tournament and filled the 80 spots so quickly that we had a waiting list. Not wanting to turn anyone away, we consulted with our local arena and expanded the tournament to 120 players.
After another successful year, we were invited to attend the CMHA dinner where we had the opportunity to hear Michael Bryant, a former Ontario politician and author of 28 seconds, speak about his struggles with mental health. Michael’s testimony about his experiences and the increasing popularity of #BellLetsTalk encouraged us to keep up the momentum of hosting the annual tournaments.
In 2015, we expanded the tournament to 168 players with the help of 20 volunteers and raised over $70,000! We were recognized by the Government of Ontario for our efforts in raising awareness of depression and suicide prevention. After the tournament, we sat down and discussed our next steps. We decided on a 2016 goal to donate $100,000 to CMHA.
In 2016, we surpassed that goal and were able to put the proceeds directly towards opening a mental health walk-in clinic in Halton.
I don’t believe our involvement with the CMHA will ever end. We will still be faced with an empty spot at the table at holidays, birthdays and on family vacations. As sad as it is, we chose to transform our experience into something positive. My volunteer days mean so much more when I can use them to contribute to something that changes our lives so quickly.
My ask of the readers of this post is to find something that YOU are passionate about and dedicate your time to it, whether that’s building a technology lab in a third world country, donating business-wear to a community organization to help underprivileged individuals to find careers, or helping at a food bank. All volunteer efforts are valuable and we are lucky to have the opportunity to use our volunteer days to give back to what we feel is important.
If you are interested in learning more about Ty’s Tourney feel free to check out the website at www.tystourney.com. For more information on mental health awareness, please check out the resources available on the CMHA website or MentalHealth.gov.