Victoria benefit dance aims to break stigma of mental illness

Bay Street Armoury to host dinner/dance event Saturday

Having a mental illness doesn’t make a person weak.

A group of friends organizing a fundraiser dance in memory of Samuel Whitehead want people to know that it’s OK to admit to having a mental illness, and that it’s OK to ask for help.

Sam’s Groove, an event to raise awareness and funds for mental health, is being held at the Bay Street Armoury tomorrow (June 23).

It’s about moving forward and helping people who need it, said Troy Sauer, one of the event organizers.

“Part of it is keeping Sam’s memory alive and doing something like this in honour of him,” he said. “A bigger part, for me personally, is raising awareness for mental health issues.

“We are standing as one voice to say that mental illness is a disease like any other and the social stigma of it as a weakness needs to be eliminated.”

For people with mental illness, it seems that help is not always available, Sauer said. He hopes the event raises awareness that help is out there.

“It’s almost scary (for people with a mental illness) to ask for help, and people don’t. It seems like the only way people know about (mental health issues), or want to do anything about it, is if something tragic happens.”

Proceeds from the event go towards patient care programs and equipment for the Archie Courtnall Centre for Mental Health.

The ticket price of $15 includes a gourmet dinner by chef Kendall Boggs and live music by local bands Step Back Dave, Sweet Leaf, and Tuff Jelly. There will also be a 50-50 raffle and silent auction. The event is semi-formal and open to people age 19-plus.

People may also donate to the cause by visiting canadahelps.org. Search for Victoria Hospitals Foundation, specify the area of need as mental health, and indicate Sam’s Groove Benefit in the message area.

The fundraiser runs from 7 to 11 p.m. in the officers’ mess at the armoury, 715 Bay St. Tickets may be purchased at Sitka Surf and Skate Shop, 570 Yates St. and at the door if available. For more information, email samsgroovebenefit@gmail.com.

reporter@vicnews.com