A record $1.43 Million raised at the 2016 Courage To Come Back Awards

New records were achieved at the 18th annual Courage To Come Back Awards on May 5th with over 1,500 attendees at the Vancouver Convention Centre and over $1.43 million raised to support Coast Mental Health.

_BE_1438_web - CopyEach year, Coast Mental Health hosts this coveted awards gala, an inspirational evening to recognize six truly remarkable British Columbians – their courage to overcome serious adversity, change their lives for the better, and move forward to help others do the same.

Funds raised will go directly to Coast Mental Health to support those dealing with mental illness. The event was chaired by Lorne Segal, O.B.C. and attended by The Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. A key highlight during the evening was Minister of Health Terry Lake donating $100,000 from the Province on behalf of Premier Christy Clark and Minister of Finance, Mike de Jong.

During the evening, the following recipients were presented with spectacular glass sculptures designed by Susan Point:

  • Tom Teranishi, Vancouver, BC – Medical Category
  • Meredith Graham, New Westminster, BC – Social Adversity Category
  • Jemal Damtawe, Coquitlam, BC – Addiction Category
  • Christy Campbell, North Vancouver, BC – Physical Rehabilitation Category
  • Dr. Barbara Harris, Vancouver BC – Mental Health Category
  • Coltyn Liu, Vancouver, BC – Youth Category

In the words of Courage Recipient Meredith Graham – “People can and do change in remarkable ways. There is extraordinary potential in genuine kindness. Every act of kindness, no matter how small, has the power to heal.”

The Courage To Come Back Awards
The Courage To Come Back Awards are presented annually by Coast Mental Health Foundation to celebrate British Columbians who have overcome illness or adversity and have ‘come back to give back’ to their communities, and to inspire others to do the same.

Coast Mental Health
For over 40 years, Coast Mental Health has helped bridge the gap between diagnosis and recovery for individuals with significant mental health challenges. Through the generous contributions of donors and partners, Coast Mental Health offers innovative programs that address the three essential pillars of sustained recovery: Housing, Employment and Support Services. Through engaging clients in their own recovery and focusing on long-term success, Coast Mental Health envisions a future where possibilities become reality. To find out more about what Coast Mental Health does, go to www.coastmentalhealth.com

Lessons in courage

by Gerald Haslam – founding member of Coast Mental Health Foundation, author, past member of The Courage To Come Back Executive Committee

‘Intrepid Pilgrim – Lorne Kimber’ by Grace Tan

My involvement with Courage began on a rainy fall day in 1998. Hugh Mitchell, a stockbroker and friend I’d done business with since the early 80s, reached me by phone. “I’ve found something really fascinating, something you couldn’t turn down in a month of Sundays,” said he.

That piqued my interest: whatever could he be talking about and how could he be so sure I’d want to be involved? “It’s called the Courage to Come Back Awards. It started in Pittsburgh; a local organization called the Coast Foundation wants to start it here.”

So? I’d never heard of the Coast Foundation (now Coast Mental Health), had no idea what these awards might be about. I must have sounded skeptical, to put it gently.

“Just come to one meeting,” Hugh insisted; “see what happens.”

What to do? When someone you trust asks you to do a little something – go to one meeting, nothing more – you repay that trust by saying yes. So I went to the meeting, met Darrell Burnham (then Executive Director of Coast, now CEO) and Shirley Broadfoot (first Courage Chair), and other volunteers, heard what they wanted to do, bounced ideas back and forth, made some suggestions and came away totally convinced that this Courage thing was a wonderful idea that could and would change lives for the better. That meeting began a relationship which has lasted, one way or another, ever since.

For the best part of 10 years I was chair of what we called “the vast and powerful media committee” (which had all of two members). I wrote virtually every press release announcing the names of recipients. I met virtually all of them. I went to scores of meetings in the Coast basement on East 11th Avenue. I wrote a book about Courage recipients and nominees called Heroes Next Door. I got to know a number of those folks very well. I came to regard them all as a kind of extended family. For months every year I was consumed by the Courage event. I watched it grow from its rather ragged beginnings into the important project and life-changing experience it has become.

But did it really affect me, change me, as a person? Yes, no question. Let me tell you how, abbreviated version, give you some of the lessons this experience imparted to this one individual. I want to do that by using the best example I can think of, the Courage recipient I got to know best, a hero named Lorne Joseph James Kimber. Born in Saskatoon June 3, 1948; died in Vancouver April 22, 2008.

“I am not a poor disabled person,” he liked to say; “I am, first, a person, and second, I have a disability.” For all the years I knew him, Lorne, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, never walked, never washed himself or dressed himself or brushed his own teeth. His ability to speak declined steadily. But he lived a fuller life than most of us: he was a blazing beacon for people with disabilities, a champion not only for himself but for others as well. He was a mentor and a role model. He was brave and tough and stubborn and cheerful and he had an impish sense of humour.

I first met Lorne in his room at George Pearson Centre, a long-term care facility in Vancouver. He was the recipient in the General Medicine category in the first year of the Courage to Come Back Awards, recognized for his years of successful advocacy for people with disabilities. He was a pioneer in the push for wheelchair accessibility and the initiator behind what he fondly described as Canada’s first wheelchair-accessible taxi fleet (Kimber Cabs, going strong since 1989).

That first time, I was drafting a press release announcing his award. “I may have MS,” it quoted Lorne as saying, “but MS doesn’t have me.” I read the line to him and he said, “Can I add something?” Yes, of course. “MS doesn’t have me,” he went on; “Jesus does.”

Lorne believed God gave him severe challenges because he was destined to inspire others. He believed in Heaven and knew to a moral certainty that when the Lord called him home, as he put it, he’d be reunited with Angela, the beloved wife he lost to cancer in 1987. We who saw him often figured his next bout of pneumonia – by 2008 he’d had survived a dozen or more of them – might well be the last. But that wasn’t how he went, passing on instead peacefully, in his sleep, to be sprightly and joyful again.

He taught me so much more than he realized at the time, about life’s challenges and how to confront them, about optimism and courage, about never giving up. His faith was real, his smile infectious. He taught me that the true measurement of your value is how much you help others.

Lorne Kimber was my friend; if he could face life as he did, the rest of us, with less daunting prospects, can surely do almost as well.

Coast Mental Health

by Darrell Burnham, CEO Coast Mental Health

Darrell BurnhamCoast Mental Health staff see hope and triumph every day.

Coast Mental Health started the CTCB Awards seventeen years ago. We saw this event as means to highlight the triumph and perseverance of the human spirit.

Through the Courage Awards, we meet six remarkable people who demonstrate these characteristics. Each recipient is a beacon of hope, a fearless hero, a shining example of possibility.

To us it is a wonderful parallel to the recovery we see in people with mental illness.

No matter how bleak things may be, not matter what hardship or misfortune you face, through the right supports and inspiration we all have an ability to rise up and find a brighter future. It shows that there is resilience in each of us that allows us to pick ourselves up, to dust ourselves off, and to overcome.

Over the years we have had many hundreds of nominees, each with their own extraordinary story. Every story has a common thread – great adversity, a life filled with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, heartbreak, suffering, and despair.

For me, I learn just how challenging life can be and I see how fortunate most of us are to have our safety, comfort and health. In fact, when I read the challenges Courage nominees have faced, my trivial problems pale in comparison to these remarkable individuals.

And yet out of these stories of heartbreak and despair, somehow, each person finds the internal strength to persevere, to rise up and to ultimately spread their wings and soar. They find the courage to not just continue on, but to engage and inspire others and in so doing they are giving back to their communities.

If you speak to the frontline staff at Coast Mental Health, they can relate. Every day they work with people with mental illness: people who have endured significant hardship and have faced unimaginable odds in their battle with these sometimes-crippling diseases.

Mental illness is a thief, it robs you of your identity, it takes away your livelihood and it isolates you from your friends and family. It leaves you a shadow of yourself… alone and hopeless. And if diseases like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are not bad enough, add to that stigma and discrimination, and a society that simply does not understand.

Yet Coast Mental Health staff see hope and triumph every day. Through counseling, intervention and care we see recovery. From our meal programs, clothing and supported housing we see restored dignity. And from life-skills training, education and employment programs we see a reduction of poverty.

We know that people can and do recover from mental illness and that they indeed can overcome.

We know that mental illness is simply another adversity and, with support, it too can be courageously beaten.

We are fortunate that the Courage To Come Back Awards give us a vehicle to deliver our message, to share our mission and to help us bring communities together.

And of course, most importantly, the annual Courage Awards introduce us to 6 remarkable recipients. People who deserve to be honoured and whose stories are so powerful they simply must be shared. Their stories overwhelm us with emotion, fill us with awe, and give us hope that within each of us exists that fearless hero.

To nominate someone who inspires you, visit couragetocomeback.ca.

“True heroism is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” ~Arthur Ashe