Instead of raising funds for a local mental health charity, the fifth annual Thumbs Up Foundation golf tournament will serve as a celebration of the foundation's supporters.
According to Thumbs Up Foundation co-founder Kim Titus, the tournament will kick off at 9 a.m. Aug. 20 at Woodside Golf Course. Titus said the foundation will use the event as an opportunity to thank everyone who has supported the Airdrie-based foundation in its efforts over the last five years to advocate for improved access to mental health care.
“What we felt is that it’s more of a thank you tournament for our past supporters, sponsors and golfers,” he said. “It’s a chance to get out and socialize a bit with those proper protocols and go ahead with the tournament again.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was some uncertainty about whether the event would go ahead at all. While it is set to take place, Titus said the tournament will be different this year, as golfers will have to abide by public health guidelines including social distancing.
“People have to ride in a cart with people they know and are [in the same] cohort,” he said. “As well, this year, we’re not having a banquet and we’re not having a guest speaker.”
The tournament has a limit of 144 golfers. As of Aug. 11, Titus said roughly 80 had already signed up, and he’s confident at least 100 will ultimately register.
“Really, when you think about it, it’s likely good for everyone’s mental health to get out in the fresh air and see some people who they haven’t seen for a year, in a few instances,” he said.
In the past, the tournament has served as Thumbs Up Foundation’s main annual fundraiser, Titus said. This year, that will not be the focus of the event.
“We always had hole sponsor signage, but we’re going to pull all those out and put signs up thanking those who have supported us," he said. "We haven’t asked for corporate sponsorships this year, because we know everyone is struggling financially and in other ways as well.”
However, Titus said anyone that wants to donate to the foundation may do so by calling 403-948-3349.
Titus and his wife – who is also named Kim – founded the Thumbs Up Foundation in 2016. The foundation was created following the suicide of their son Braden, who was unable to secure an appointment with a psychiatrist after deciding to stop taking his anti-depressants.
Since then, the foundation has strived to increase awareness of mental health issues and advocate for “systemic change” surrounding the topic.
The tournament will cap off what has been a whirlwind last few months for the Thumbs Up Foundation, according to Titus. The foundation became a registered charity earlier this year and recently received a $500,000 grant from the Alberta government’s Community Grant Funding Program to support its new Harmonized Health pilot project.
According to the foundation’s website, Harmonized Health will provide “support for individuals and families requiring assistance for mental health and addiction care.” The outcomes will be recorded, measured and evaluated by a professional team, with the intention of publishing a report on the project’s effectiveness.
“We just think there has to be a change in how we deal with mental health and people suffering,” Titus said. “This program will show a different way – and hopefully a more successful way – of dealing with folks who are having a very difficult time.”
Titus added the program will be family-centric and include a mental health assessment and one-on-one counselling.
“It’s something I think is very much needed, and the government said, ‘We like what we saw. Get back to us with the results and we’ll go from there,’" he said.
Registration for the Thumbs Up Golf Tournament is available at woodsidegc.com or by calling the course directly at 403-686-4653.