On September 16 the Lucan Irish Six and Mount Brydges Bulldogs hosted the first ever Mental Health Awareness Alumni Charity Event.
The idea was formed pre-COVID by the two club Presidents out of tragedy but also out of hope. The event’s purpose is to draw attention to and raise funds for, athlete mental wellness in small communities.
In early summer the two organizations partnered and formed an Organizing Committee to begin planning the event.
The two organizations put aside their on-ice rivalry to create an off-ice partnership that they hope can be an example for other teams across the PJHL. They formed a new entity called the Irish Bulldogs by combining the two team names, and created a unique logo that is a mash-up of both teams’ iconic logos!
This combination of the two club’s assets is an example of what teams can accomplish when they work to support a goal off the ice. We should be “fierce competitors on the ice, and business partners off the ice”, said Neubauer as it’s really the only way we’ll have a chance to offer a product that fans want to pay to see and we can really call entertainment”. Although this event was about awareness and raising funds for charity the two team Presidents plan to continue working together “as there is a lot of competition for a family’s entertainment dollars,” the two said, and “anything we can do to make our Division more fun for fans we’re going to try it”.
Friyia and Neubauer believe that teams working together to make mental health conversations commonplace in their dressing rooms are a step in the right direction. The stigma of mental illness is challenging enough but the stigma of mental illness in athletes is still something to be kept buried. We’re working to change that along with others.
Last Friday, the Alumni game was hosted in the Bulldogs arena and the Bulldogs organization selected a charity in the Lucan community. This year’s recipient of the yet-to-be-tallied fundraiser is the Nicholas Smith Memorial Foundation. Nick Smith was a Lucan Irish defenseman who took his life in 2019. The organizing committee plans for the event to happen annually. It’s one way of saying to past and current players that your health matters to us, especially your mental health. Next year the event will take place in Lucan with Lucan selecting a mental health charity in the Mount Brydges community. The goal is to continue to raise funds for athlete mental awareness and health services in small communities, said Friyia, President of the Bulldogs, and to keep the conversation going inside our own organizations.
Fans can expect an announcement about the number of funds raised for the charity on October 8 at Lucan’s regular season game dedicated to honouring the life of their fallen player Nick Smith.
Irish Bulldogs Mission Statement:
The Irish Bulldogs bring awareness to players, parents, and the public about athlete mental wellness and
support local, grassroots mental health programs and charities in Lucan and Mount Brydges, Ontario