I’m not even sure how to begin to write this post. So, I figure if I just let my heart speak, this will go okay.
As most of you know, my son Owen has a mental illness. After years of supporting my son as he battled massive panic attacks, I finally got him into our mental health system (more rage-writing required on that topic, but that’s not for this post) and with medication and a kickass counselor, he’s doing a lot better this year.
Don’t get me wrong. He battles every day. Every. Day. And how exhausting that must be for a 10-year old. But, the battles seem smaller and shorter and I think he is now able to catch his breath between fights. So…we’re winning. Well, we’re learning. We’re learning to battle smarter, stronger and quicker. We’re learning to shrink anxiety and call it out for its bully-ways.
All that to say…we’re doing better. But…we still battle. He doesn’t “look” like a kid that battles mental illness, does he? But…please know. He. Battles. Every. Day.
A few days ago I learned that Owen’s team had been asked to play a short game at the intermission of the Boston Bruins Alumni vs Victoria (and area) Firefighters) charity game hosted by the Umbrella Society. Now, I had not thought that this would lead to anxiety because it’s for fun and we’re pretty good when things are just for fun. BUT…what I did think was “Jeez…this would be a good opportunity to spread the word about Buddy Check for Jesse“.
For those that don’t know about Buddy Check for Jesse, it’s an initiative that was started by the force that is Stu Gershman, in memory of his son Jesse Short-Gershman, who died by suicide. Stu started Buddy Check as a way to honour his son and help his other sons grieve and grow through the loss. Buddy check provides packages to hockey teams, with coaches notes, green (the color for mental illness) tape, posters, wallet cards and bracelets. Buddy check provides a way for coaches to discuss what it means to reach out to team members who may be struggling to support one another, how to check in on one another and what to look for. Buddy Check brings the topic of mental illness and mental health into the dressing room and I don’t think that’s ever been done before.
This “green tape” initiative made a HUGE impact on Owen. Huge. He even ran a campaign for Buddy Check and raised $2500 this year for them, which we were told will help fund about 85 teams. That’s 85 teams that get this information because of my son’s efforts. So, yeah…I’m kinda proud of that.
With the Boston Bruins Alumni game happening last night, yesterday morning I thought “hey…I wonder if I can get the teams to put green tape on their sticks for the game?” It was last minute. But, I told my son my thought and the look on his face told me I HAD to make it happen.
A few posts to facebook, a few texts, a few emails, a few “please, please, please, please let me make this happen”. Then, a quick drive around town to get the green tape, promo material and all things Buddy Check for Jesse…and it was in the hands of the Grizzlies office. Thank you, Sheryl Williamson – I am forever grateful.
I had to walk away from the office and just hope it worked out.
We showed up at the game last night an hour early (kids playing at intermission show up early) and saw the Firefighters warming up. I was nervous to look at their sticks because…what if there was no tape? How would I explain to my kid that I didn’t make it happen? The pit in my stomach was huge.
I took a breath, looked up…and there was a sea of green. Almost every single firefighter had taped their stick. Right then and there I did a weird little hop of joy thing I do and had a little cry. I hugged my kid and said, “you are so important!”.
Then the Bruins came on the ice. Although not as many sticks were taped…SOME WERE…but you know what I saw? I saw the handles of sticks taped and I saw the tape used as sock tape…HOW AWESOME?!
The fact that the players learned about what the green tape stood for – sticking together to support mental health in sport – and they stood up and showed their support for this? Well, COME ON, how is a Mama NOT going to lose her ever-loving mind in gratitude. Super cool event alert – one of Owen’s coaches (thank you, Brandon Meyer!) explained to a guy with an inside track to meeting Ray Bourque that Owen was there and what the green tape stood for…and Ray Bourque said he’d meet my kiddo and we got this picture. Hello Ray Bourque!
I don’t even think a lot of the players understood how important this was. But for my son, who declared yesterday in the car as we were dropping the green tape to the Grizzlies office that Buddy Check for Jesse is “25% of his entire life”…this means something.
I support and advocate for Buddy Check for Jesse because it impacted our lives more than one could possibly ever know. And now, if I can help Stu and his team impact even one more child, the way that our family has been impacted, I will 100% do it. Every time.
To the players of the games last night – thank you. You may think what you did was very small, but please know that it wasn’t. It wasn’t at all. It showed this Mom (that’s me) that this is important and that I need to continue to fight for education and I need to continue to advocate for all the kids out there who might see a green stick and feel supported and heard…and not minimized.
I need to continue to push and spread the Buddy Check for Jesse word because what Stu and Buddy Check does matters more than I could have ever imagined. I need to keep shouting from the rooftop because the memory of Jesse means a lot and although I did not meet him, he is certainly a big part of my life and I know, I JUST KNOW, he’s looking down on all of this with pride. I can feel that.
The official Buddy Check for Jesse weekend is happening Oct. 26/27. Most South Island Atom, PeeWee and Bantam teams will receive packages AND because of donations through the BC Amateur Sport Fund, we can add even more teams to the 1100 already sponsored. If you’d like to donate to support a team, please do so…every $30 funds one team. PLEASE CLICK HERE to donate.
Long post. Sorry. It was kind of a big night and I’m a bit emotional. One last thank you to the Grizzlies for helping make this happen. Thanks to my Mom Hive who pointed me in the direction and thanks for the many hugs I received last night in support of my son and all the green tape out there. I’m not alone, and I have the hockey community to thank for it.
Also – Owen – you’re a fucking rockstar and I love you so very much.