When Journey to Hope first started in Moose Jaw way back in 2007, their mission of supporting suicide awareness and prevention was still in its infancy, as were the various fundraising programs designed to help get their message out into the community.
But the local organization continued to focus on hope, healing and honouring over the years, working towards improving the mental health of those in the community while doing all they could to help those affected by suicide.
Now, 15 years later, it’s more than safe to say things have moved in a positive direction.
Where Journey to Hope was able to raise in the area of $7,000 for their mission back in the day, Saturday’s edition of the annual event in Crescent park revealed that close to $30,000 had been donated to their cause over the last year -- including over $3,000 just on the day of the event itself.
That total was similar to what was raised last year, and will enable Journey to Hope to continue their growing number of events and activities designed to help others with mental health and suicide prevention.
“We’re so grateful to the community and the way they step up in such variable ways,” said Della Ferguson with Journey to Hope. “And they do it out of meaning in their lives and they want to make a difference. That’s the beauty of community, we can come together and make such a difference.”
The best part of it all is how Journey to Hope’s work is having an impact on the community. From their general message that help is always out there and don’t be afraid to seek it, to their mental health screening programs in schools and a wide range of other programs, they’ve been able to help many individuals in need.
“Some of the best feedback is hearing when screening for mental health is done, we’ve heard how many people needed it, and that the program was there to quickly see the at-risk youth and get the support they need to them,” Ferguson said. “So it’s those kinds of things, and we hear from people after an event where they’re so grateful and they’ll talk about something that touched their heart specifically, and they’ll carry that with them.”
Journey to Hope also plays an important role in helping those who have been affected by suicide. Rayanne and Tony Fieger lost their son Michael to mental health issues in 2007 and spoke about their journey to healing during Saturday’s event.
“You have stories like the Fiegers and their journey and the difference it’s made to have a community to come together and grow forward with,” Ferguson said. “Even in the light of loss, there’s a way to find hope in this with each other and share it with each other.”
Journey to Hope also featured a special presentation by Jan Stewart, who has started a candle-pouring business in memory of son Ken Stewart and has made hundreds of dollars in donations to the organization in a short time.
A major part of Journey to Hope’s ongoing success is the annual donations the organization receives, and that was no different this year.
The second annual Ruck It Up fundraiser brought in more than $10,000, while the peach sale by Todd Bell raised $2,784 and the annual quilt raffle by Joyce Aitken in honour of Gord Aitken raised $1,800.
A portion of those funds will go towards a new initiative this year, which will see Journey to Hope training those interested in how to deal with mental health crises and help work with those who are in a bad place and need help.
“We’ll be sponsoring training events, and we really want to make them accessible so people will take it and will be equipped when it comes to helping someone in a mental crisis,” Ferguson said. “That’s high in our hearts.”
One thing that’s for certain is Journey to Hope’s future looks exceptionally positive -- and not just from a financial perspective. The group’s Journey2Hope youth chapter, featuring dozens of students from local high schools, was prominently featured throughout the day Saturday and is another ray of hope for what can be.
“Adding a youth chapter is a whole new dimension, they are such a passionate group and feel such a sense of belonging in their teams and then in the collective group, and they love making a difference,” Ferguson said. “That’s where it begins, where it’s helpful to talk out, that it’s so important to go through things together and not isolate and just suck it up, all the messages that we grew up with that weren’t helpful… We’re changing that messaging and helping to make a difference.”
For more information on Journey to Hope -- including how to volunteer, donate and sign up for their many programs -- be sure to visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/journeytohopemoosejaw and their website at www.http://journeytohope.synthasite.com/.