“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Lifeline.” This is the reason Stewart Skinner gives for organising a fundraising day for Lifeline H2H at Denistone Bowling Club, where he goes every Wednesday for a social afternoon with mates out on the green. “It was just my way of giving back after all Lifeline did for me,” he says.
Twelve years ago, Stewart suffered severe depression and came to Lifeline H2H after feeling suicidal. He received counselling at the Gordon office for four years, during which time, he says, “I felt really supported and realised I wasn’t alone”. He then took part in the six-week REACH program, where he learned more valuable strategies in managing his wellbeing, which he continues to use.
Eight years later, the idea of a fundraiser for Lifeline H2H came to Stewart when COVID struck. He thought about all the people whose mental health would be impacted by the pandemic and, he explains, “There was something in me that said: ‘You can’t just sit here and not do something about this’.”
After getting the go-ahead from the club, Stewart told a large gathering about his plan and how Lifeline helped him with his own struggles with depression. “Afterwards,” he says, “several people came to me and shared their own direct and indirect experiences with mental illness and suicide.”
Stewart was then “bowled over” by the show of support for the fundraiser – not only from his own club but from other clubs in the district, who registered teams to compete on the day. One Denistone member, who knew he wouldn’t be able to attend, told Stewart he would donate $1,500 directly to Lifeline H2H. “I just couldn’t believe it,” the quietly spoken Stewart says.
Stewart had been checking the weather forecasts daily for over a week, but when Monday 12 May dawned, the weather gods had answered his prayers and served up a picture-perfect day, ideal for a full program of bowls, trivia, music, raffles, food and drinks.
Lu Sierra, a telephone crisis supporter who works in H2H’s Marketing and Communications department, was invited to talk to participants about Lifeline H2H and took the opportunity to also express its enormous gratitude for their involvement and generosity.
“From the moment I walked in, I could feel the spirit and camaraderie – it was quite moving to see them all bonding through shared enjoyment and a common cause,” she says. “One gentleman walked up to me and said, ‘Stewart’s organised the BEST day’, and then handed me a wad of $50 notes (totalling $500) to give to Lifeline H2H – just like that!”
All up, the club raised an incredible $5,000, which will all go towards helping Lifeline H2H help others who are struggling with life’s difficulties. And the consensus is that the Lifeline H2H fundraiser at Denistone Bowling Club was such a success that it should be an annual event. Not only that, they intend to challenge other clubs to match their efforts.
Stewart could never have imagined that something so positive and life-affirming could come out of a period of profound darkness in his life. “It still gives me goosebumps just thinking about what this little community of bowlers achieved that day. It strengthens my belief in how big-hearted and generous human beings can be.”
A huge THANK YOU to Stewart and everyone at Denistone Bowling Club from all of us at H2H. You are all stars, and we look forward to entering our own team at next year’s fundraiser!