Tourney for mental health

Katie Brickman
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15 Wing raises money for local organization

A fun weekend playing slo-pitch will benefit the community.

Members of 15 Wing Moose Jaw held a charity slo-pitch tournament over the weekend at Caribou Heights with money raised being donated to mental health intiatives in Moose Jaw. Times-Herald photo by Katie Brickman

Members from 15 Wing initiated and played in the inaugural Wings for Mental Health and Awareness tournament at Caribou Heights on Saturday and raised $1,500 for the Canadian Mental Health Association – Moose Jaw branch.

“I spoke with Donna Bowyer and they have a small Moose Jaw branch that takes care of a couple different projects in town,” said Derek Pasma, an organizer of the event. “One of her main projects is going around to schools to educate the kids about the importance of mental health and getting rid of that stigma.”

Pasma explained that the idea came about through different courses that are held at 15 Wing through their pilot training program. He served as a fundraising officer and the instructors encourage each course to come up with a couple different ideas while they are in Moose Jaw.

“I’m not sure what the other courses have done, but one of my goals was to develop a project that would involve the community a little bit,” said Pasma. “I thought this was one way that we could give back to the community by donating the money to an organization that serves the community, but also having military personnel and community personnel work together to achieve that goal.”

Unfortunately, because students are only in town for six to eight months for their courses, it is hard for them to make strong connections in the community.

“One of our goals was to recruit military teams and people from the community. The latter part didn’t work out and we didn’t get too much interest from other teams and we found out there was another tournament the same weekend,” said Pasma. “We still had five teams from the base that registered. We made use of that and we had a lot of fun.”

There were a number of prizes donated by a number of local businesses as well.

“We got an overwhelming amount of support from a lot of businesses,” he said. “They weren’t big prizes, but it was great to see the support.”

The reason why the group wanted to donate the money to mental health initiatives is because of how big of a resource those organizations are for military personnel.

“We thought it was a good fit,” he said. “They have a couple of programs like peer mentoring programs and training for issues like depression anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. That falls in with being a military community and that is close to home for us.”

In the 12-year Afghanistan war, 158 Canadians lost their lives. In the past three years, 50 confirmed Canadian veterans of that war have committed suicide since returning from combat.

Although many of the members at 15 Wing are new to the military, Pasma did state that the few people that have served overseas could list a number of people that they personally know that are struggling with PTSD or depression.

“Those resources are incredibly important,” he said. “It is extremely important to know that at this point in our career, there are people that will work for your well-being in the future if you should need it. That is a pretty big comfort too and we want to encourage that.”

When Pasma reached out to Bowyer, the branch manager, he said she was “extremely grateful.”

Pasma would like to see this turn into an annual event, even if he isn’t here next year for it.

“The reaction from the people who played in the tournament thought it was great,” he said. “They thought we should do this more often. It removed some of the formalities of the military and I think that is an important way for us to de-stress.”

Follow Katie on Twitter @katiebrickman.

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