By Chris Lewis/August 19, 2021
Five years in, the Jacob Puddister Memorial Foundation is continuing to make strides in its effort to help people with mental health challenges.
To support that work, the foundation has to raise money, which is itself a measure of how much success the organization is having in the community.
This past Sunday, the latest incarnation of the foundation’s Shifting Gears event, showed the level of support for the work is considerable. In the past, the annual car show has been hosted in Avondale and Conception Bay South. This year it was in Mobile on the Southern Shore where organizers raised over $100,000 in personal and corporate donations, making it the most successful one yet.
The money will be used to provide mental health resources to the province’s youth, including free counselling for people ages 15-35, and free Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training for counsellors.
The foundation is named for Jacob Puddister of Bay Bulls, who lost a battle to mental illness in August 2016.
Jacob’s sister, Kelsey Puddister, said her brother loved cars and the province’s car community. By mixing that with the foundation’s goal of helping people, Shifting Gears has become its flagship event each year with hundreds of cars on display and streams of onlookers to see them.
“To have so many people come to see the show, while also being able to talk about mental health, counselling, therapy … that’s really special,” said Kelsey.
The money raised at the show goes directly into mental health services, she added.
“It doesn’t go into overhead costs, or bills, or anything like that. It goes directly to helping youth,” Puddister said. “All of this money goes right into helping those people, and to help us continue what we do.”
The services offered through the foundation have helped some 250 people and covered about 2,500 counselling appointments.
Puddister said the need for such services has became even more apparent as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world.
“Our five to 10 year goal here is to create a 40-50 bed inpatient and outpatient treatment facility for youth in our province,” Puddister said. “So, we have big goals, and we’re excited to do more of these fundraisers that will help us reach those goals. I don’t think there’s such a thing as too many mental health resources. The suicide rates in our province are continuing to rise despite the increase in services. So, to me, that just points to the fact that we need to work harder, better, and to work together as a community with different levels of government to address this.”
Anybody hoping to request counselling services through the foundation can do so through the website: jpmemorialfoundation.com.