Nicole German and the Maddie Project are keeping the conversation around child and youth mental health going.
In its first year, the project has reached its campaign target of $1 million. The money is raised to help renovate the Phillips House and therapeutic healing garden for North York General Hospital’s planned mental health out-patient facility.
“The thing I keep coming back to is that is mental wellness and health should just be like nutrition,” German said. “Years ago, people never talked about nutrition. Now it’s in the media, it’s on the boxes of the food. Corporations take ownership, and it’s the same thing with mental wellness.
“We need to treat the importance of mental health the same as the food that we put in our bodies.”
In April, 2015, German lost daughter and North Toronto CI student, Madeline Coulter, to suicide. The 14-year-old had been grappling with the illness but, even while getting help, she wanted to help others suffering.
Coulter had been treated at North York General, and had talked about helping the facility raise money for a gym. With the help of grassroots projects and corporate sponsors, the Maddie Project was able to reach their goal. German made the announcement on the anniversary of Coulter’s death.
“It was a really wonderful opportunity to announce that,” she said.
In an effort to continue the conversation, and fulfil Coulter’s wishes, the Maddie Project is hosting an annual gala Sept. 9 (as this paper goes to press) at the Four Seasons Hotel. A Night To Shine Bright allows others to share their stories. Coulter would have been 16 this year, so German has carried the sweet sixteen sentiment with her while planning the gala.
“The real opportunity, is not just to hear speakers tell their stories, but to mix and mingle and have that conversation,” she said. She’s learned is everyone has either struggled themselves or had someone close to them struggle, she added.
A small anecdote from a conversation with a bank teller is shared by German, who asked about the Maddie Project.
“His immediate response was ‘Wow, my sister has struggled significantly’,” she said.
Money raised from the gala will go towards the services of child and mental health care at North York General.
German admitted she’s not quite sure where the second life of the Maddie Project is headed, but the “big goal” is driven by raising awareness.
North York General’s fundraising campaign still needs to reach their goal of $8 million. They’ve been able to raise $7.3 million for the Phillips House project.
A ground-breaking event is tentatively set for December 2017.
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