Courage To Come Back gala raises $2.2 million

Recipients' stories prompt sold-out crowd to dig deep for Coast Mental Health; province chips in $1 million

A woman who as a child witnessed her father bludgeoning her mother to death and later had to flee a violent marriage.

A man who was forced against his will to live in an institution and was abused when he tried to demand his rights.

A former full-patch Hells Angel member whose drug addiction spiraled so out of control that he was even outlawed by his fellow gang members.

A teenager who was misdiagnosed with anorexia after a series of devastating events led her to develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

An inspiring advocate for the disabled whose forceful personality never let her give up on her own goals after she was told she would never walk again.

A pioneer whose appreciation for the peaceful environment she found in psychiatric hospital units led her to convince three levels of government to introduce supportive housing for the mentally ill in Vancouver.

Is it any wonder that, after hearing these six people’s stories, the 1,200 people gathered in the Vancouver Convention Centre’s ballroom on Thursday night collectively raised almost $2.2 million for the organization that is dedicated to helping people find the spirit to survive such challenges?

“We will all leave tonight with our souls nourished,” Loren Segal said at the close of the Courage to Come Back awards gala on May 8. “By giving, caring, faith, hope and endurance, we will find the strength to face our own fears and achieve our own dreams. These [award winners] are symbols of the possibility that lies within us all.”

The gala saluted the six award winners – Brenda Gardiner, Paul Caune, Joe Calendino, Kennedy Baker, Kristine Stanbra and Jackie Hooper and raised money for the evening’s host, the Coast Mental Health Foundation. Segal, whose father Joe is a long-time Coast supporter, is the chairman of the annual event which, this year, had a record-breaking sold-out crowd.

Among the attendees were several provincial cabinet members and mayors. At one point, Terry Lake, minister of health, “spontaneously” got up to whisper into the ear of finance minister Mike de Jong. Lake then announced that de Jong had approved of a $1-million commitment to Coast Mental Health’s at-risk youth program, which provides housing and support for youth between the ages of 18 and 25 who are living with mental illness. “Make sure you get a receipt,” de Jong quipped.

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If you're inspired by the stories of this year's Courage To Come Back awards, you too can donate to Coast Mental Health, which has started three Fundrazr campaigns.

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