What started as a conversation about Dave LaForest between two friends at a party has become an annual golf tournament that serves as a powerful way to create positive change and remember a friend who struggled with mental illness. “Dave was an athletic guy," says John Crossley, one of the organizers behind the tournament, who was a close friend of Dave’s. “Golf wasn’t his favourite sport, but it was the most inclusive and social one for our friends. He would’ve wanted that.”  To create a positive vibe and reinforce that the event is a celebration of life, the organizing team makes sure the day is a joyful one, with costumes and contests that get more outrageous and creative every year.

Four years in, the celebration remains as fun as ever, and has grown into a powerful vehicle for change. The donations raised from the tournament are now directed to the Dave La Forest Memorial Fund, Jack.org’s first donor-advised fund. This gives Dave’s family and friends the ability to choose which program their money goes towards, so everyone feels much more part of the cause. “There is so much support and pride around this event. It’s the best day of the year, not just because of the golf tournament. A big part of it is getting to talk about Dave, celebrating his life, and knowing that something great is coming from such a tragedy,” says John.

Over four years, John and the other members of the organizing committee have seen some big changes among their friends, both on and off the golf course.  “There is a lot more talk about mental health among our participants. It wasn’t even on our radar before, but hearing the Jack speakers at the tournament, it hits home with our guests. They have started to go out to the Jack Ride, they are applying to be Jack Talks speakers themselves. They’re realizing how big this issue is, they are talking about their own challenges, and reaching out to people who may be struggling. This is the best thing to come from the tournament."

Brittany Danishevsky is a student at the University of Guelph studying Psychology and Neuroscience. She shares her story in...