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Shifting Gears for youth mental health in Newfoundland and Labrador

Jacob Puddister struggled with mental illness for several years before his death in 2016. Today the Jacob Puddister Memorial Foundation is working to raise awareness and funds for youth mental health.
Jacob Puddister struggled with mental illness for several years before his death in 2016. Today the Jacob Puddister Memorial Foundation is working to raise awareness and funds for youth mental health. - Contributed

Fundraising event at Eastbound International Speedway Saturday

“His smile could light up a room,” Kelsey Puddister says of her younger brother, Jacob Puddister.

She says Jacob struggled with mental illness for several years before his death on Aug. 24, 2016 at age 21.

“He always felt a deep, altruistic desire to help other people. If one of his friends needed something, he’d make sure they had it.”

She says it only made sense for the family to honour and remember him in a way that was helping others, and that’s how the Jacob Puddister Memorial Foundation and its annual event Shifting Gears came about.

“My dad called me one day, it was just a few months after (Jacob) died, and he was super upset, but he said, ‘You know, we have to do something.’”

Two years later, the foundation has raised close to $100,000 for youth mental health initiatives in Newfoundland and Labrador.

These initiatives include scholarships to Spirit Horse so people can receive their services free of charge, the creation of counselling bursaries for young people on waitlists to access counselling services, and a partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (CMHA-NL). Along with corporate partner Pennecon, the foundation committed $250,000 to CMHA-NL over a five-year period.

Funds raised at the Shifting Gears event happening Saturday will continue to build upon that work.

The car show, drag race and concert begins at 2 p.m. at Eastbound International Speedway in Avondale.

The car show and drag races run from 2 to 6 p.m. and the concert begins at 7 p.m. Mark Critch will emcee the event which features performances by Bic and the Ballpoints, Celtic Connection, Irish Descendants, Masterless Men, and Shanneyganock.  

There will be a bouncy castle and face painting for children and a fireworks show at 10 p.m.

Tickets are $25, free for children under 12, and are on sale at North Atlantic Orange Store, at the door, and through ETixNow.

Kelsey says the foundation has many goals for the future, but throughout it all is the constant remembrance of her brother.

“I really do believe that the stigma associated with mental health was what prevented him from ultimately receiving the gargantuan amount of care that he would need to feel better. So, that’s what we are trying to do on our end is to try to bridge that gap and make people more aware.”

juanita.mercer@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @juanitamercer_

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