Over $65,000 raised for mental health

The Canadian Mental Health Association Northwestern Alberta (CMHA) received over $65,000 from fundraisers last weekend.

The Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) brought in $35,000 last Saturday (Feb. 25), while later in the evening, the Grande Prairie Storm hosted Lift the Mask night, where Connor Mackenzie presented a cheque for the money raised to date which is $30,000.

“That money is just going to go back to the community,” said Sherilee Crawley, CMHA program manager.

“It's going to continue to allow us to serve our community in the best way possible.”

The funds raised will ensure that programming in the community will remain free, said Cawley.

The CMHA offers its Recovery College, which is open to anyone and provides courses and one-on-one sessions for people looking for help and support in their mental health.

She said funds will help develop more youth courses and ongoing efforts of helping seniors.

Additionally, CMHA also has its mobile addictions outreach program and Willow Place, which provides housing for people with mental health illnesses.

“The money is well needed; when it comes to nonprofits, you get limited funding for contracts per year, and fundraising really helps to expand (programming) and do more stuff.”

Over 120 walkers attended the CNOY walk, and more funds are expected as they still need to count the cash donations, and people can still donate until March 22.

Down the road at Bonnetts Centre, the Grande Prairie Storm were hitting the ice in a special Lift the Mask game.

Lift the Mask was an initiative started by Storm goaltender MacKenzie; he raised funds for CMHA and travelled to different schools around the region and visited sports teams to speak about mental health in sports.

He and his teammates all donned special jerseys for the night; Mackenzie wore a custom mask for the occasion.

The jerseys and masks would be auctioned off at the end of the night, with funds going once again back to the CMHA.

Mackenzie also continues his fundraising efforts, and people can still donate online.

The game started with a ceremonial puck drop against the two goalies.

The local CMHA then announced it will be doing a Lift the Mask course inspired by Mackenzie's efforts in promoting mental health in youth sports.

Crawley says the new program will be offered through the recovery college program and will be applicable to all sports.

The program plans to address the most prominent barriers or concerns that people playing sports or youth might have in the community.

She said CMHA is currently creating a focus group addressing a variety of sports to develop material around a range of needs.

Donations can be made to the CNOY initiative at cnoy.org/location/grandeprairie, and Lift the Mask donations can be made at liftthemask.ca.

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News