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Golf 4 Project 11 Tournament takes on new format for 2020

by Jason Friesen

While the work Project 11 (P11) does to promote mental wellness in classrooms around Manitoba is priceless for students and educators, it wouldn’t be possible without all the funds that are raised annually. One fundraising event that has become a staple each year is the Golf 4 Project 11 Tournament.

The tournament began in 2017 thanks to the initiative of Lisa Rowe, Kathryn Heidinger and Christie Houston, who started the tournament in memory of their friend Christy O’Dowda who lost her struggle with mental health in February 2016. Since then, the three women have been organizing the tournament each year, with all proceeds going to Project 11. The event has grown quickly from 80 golfers in the first year to 145 golfers participating last summer, and to date, they’ve raised $44,750 through the three tournaments they’ve held.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and physical distancing measures being a reality in our world, this year’s tournament has had to take a different format. Rather than a typical fundraising golf tournament, a Golf 4 Project 11 Memorial Golf Day is being held at Kingswood Golf and Country Club in La Salle, Man. on July 23, where half of each green fee will be donated to Project 11 in Christy’s name. Additionally, the Kingswood pro shop will be collecting any extra donations participants wish to contribute. Participants will also be able to buy $10 vouchers that will include a domestic beer can or shot with a smokie, $2 of which will be donated to Project 11.

“We didn’t feel right asking for sponsorship and donations from our sponsors this year due to the economic climate COVID-19 has created, and we know that Project 11 would be seeing some of those same fiscal challenges,” said Rowe. “We were very disappointed that our event could not go ahead as planned due to COVID-19, however we didn’t want to cancel outright as the day is very close to our hearts. It was very important to us to continue the tournament in some way to support Project 11 in Christy’s memory.”

Though Rowe acknowledges that this year’s version of the tournament won’t have the capacity to raise the same amount of funds that other years have, she, Heidinger and Houston are all aware that this tournament is about much more than just the money. They’re all very thankful to Kingswood for their generous contributions and allowing the golf day to go forward and want to keep the conversation around mental health going, especially among youth.

“We chose P11 as our charity in 2017 because we believe strongly that giving our youth the tools and resources to help them manage mental wellness is very important,” said Rowe. “When we lost our friend Christy in 2016, we all wondered, ‘what could have been done differently to have saved her life?’ Mental wellness is a life-long process and we are so grateful that P11 is starting those lessons early in life for our youth.”

The Project 11 team is always grateful for the annual golf tournament and the support it provides but are particularly thankful for the efforts being put in to keep the tournament going this year, given all that has happened in the last four months.

“We’re so lucky to have people like Lisa, Kathryn and Christie who give their time and effort to support Project 11,” said Suzi Friesen, Director of Educational Programs for P11. “Their efforts over the last several years and the funds they’ve raised have been a huge support for us to continue to expand our reach across Manitoba. This year with the pandemic, mental wellness has been brought to the forefront for many more people as we’ve all coped with isolating and physical distancing. Throughout our virtual class visits this spring, we’ve continued to discuss the importance of the life lessons students have learned throughout our program. Practicing resilience and fostering healthy relationships are as important as ever, while anxiety and stress have surfaced during this time of uncertainty.”

If you’d like to participate in the Golf 4 Project 11 Memorial Golf Day at Kingswood Golf and Country Club on July 23, please book a tee time by calling the Kingswood pro shop at 204-736-4079. Additional donations can also be made on the Golf 4 Project 11 website at www.golf4project11.com.

Bringing mental health from the rough to the fairway

By Adrian McMorris

Lisa Rowe and Catherine Heidinger found a fitting way to honour their friend’s memory after Christy O’Dowda lost her struggle with mental health in February 2016. The pair organize the Golf 4 P11 tournament as a way to tell O’Dowda’s story as well as help others who need support by donating proceeds to Project 11.

“We don’t want this to happen to anyone else. It’s important we talk about mental health and practice strong mental health practices.”

Golf 4 P11 is a fairly young tournament and Rowe and Heidinger are both blown away at the surge of support the tournament continues to receive.

From 45 golfers in the first year in 2017 to a full course of 145 players at this year’s event held July 25, Rowe and Heidinger have raised a staggering $22,250 all going to Project 11 to continue their mental health initiatives and Rowe says they expect to exceed last year’s donations.

Rowe and Heidinger decided to join forces with Project 11 after meeting with Suzi Friesen, Director of Educational Programs for the True North Youth Foundation (TNYF) and Kerri Waldbauer, Coordinator of Educational Programs for Project 11.

“They do incredible work. We share the same mindset towards mental health practices and we believe Christy would be very proud of the work the ladies and their staff do in the community.”

Rowe says they’re constantly working with new sponsors and the 2019 tournament featured new games and challenges at every hole. The prizes also took the tournament up a notch this year with items like a signed Nikolaj Ehlers jersey and a signed painting of Blake Wheeler.

Friesen and her team are continuously working to make people like Christy O’Dowda proud of Project 11’s impact.

“We unfortunately never met Christy, but listening to Lisa and Catherine talk about her so fondly, we knew she was an incredible person and we are thrilled about this partnership that will help so many in our community.”

While this year’s tournament was a success, Rowe’s favourite part of the day is knowing that Christy is looking down smiling. She knows her friend’s memory will live on and is helping countless kids who might be struggling just like she was.