The Legacy for Alex Kerswell charity presented cheques to Mind-Aid and Gravenhurst High School’s Legacy for Alex Bursary Fund on July 21, supporting youth mental health in honour of the charity’s namesake.
Alex Kerswell died by suicide one week after his 17th birthday on Sept. 20, 2019. His parents Leanna and Shawn created the Legacy for Alex Kerswell charity in his memory. The organization held a fundraising dinner and silent auction on June 24. Along with 180 reservations, 39 community businesses donated items to the silent auction, which raised over $3,000. In total, over $12,000 was raised with a net income of over $11,000 from dinner ticket sales, the silent auction and donations made in June. Leanna said they raised more than they thought was possible.
“It was an amazing feeling to raise over $11,000 from the fundraising event,” she said. “We had such incredible community support. They recognize the need for youth mental health supports, and we are so thankful that our community was behind this initiative.”
Leanna said it was rewarding for her and Shawn to present a $7,000 cheque to Mind-Aid on July 21. The organization provides free services to youth in Muskoka to help them navigate the mental health care system on their journey to mental wellness.
The Kerswells also presented a $3,000 cheque to Gravenhurst High School for the Legacy for Alex Bursary Fund. The bursary is in memory of Alex and the struggles he faced. Staff select two graduating students who have overcome adversity throughout their high school career as recipients each year.
The remaining money is in the charity’s general fund for now. The Board is considering other charities that align with its goals for future donations.
“Mind-Aid is such a wonderful organization that really does help our youth who are struggling with their mental well-being,” Leanna said. “And the Legacy for Alex Bursary fund really helps graduating students who have demonstrated their ability to overcome adversity while continuing to keep our son’s memory alive at Gravenhurst High School. We believe that these are two very worthwhile causes.”
The Kerswells and the charity’s Board Members would like to thank everyone for their support along with the volunteers who made the event such a success. The purpose of the event was part of the charity’s goal to turn tragedy into awareness and to support organizations that provide mental health support to youth.
The other goal is to keep the memory of Alex Kerswell alive. Alex struggled with anxiety and depression. His parents found it challenging to navigate the mental health system in order to get him the help he needed, and he did not always want the help when it became available. The stigma was too great. His struggles resulted in him dropping out of school.
Alex’s death haunts his family every single day. They do not want anyone to have to go through what they did. They want to ensure that our youth have the support and resources they need to help them on their journey to mental wellness. As a community, more discussions need to take place around mental health issues to end the stigma that keeps our youth from getting the help they need.
Alex’s parents are trying to turn their son’s tragedy into awareness. They have a Facebook group Legacy for Alex where they support members with inspirational posts and resources. The charity also has a website where events are posted and where donors can contribute through Canada Helps and receive tax receipts.