Lorne Segal, chair, Courage to Come Back Awards. (photo by Cynthia Ramsay)
In its chai year, the Courage to Come Back Awards had a record night on May 5 at the Vancouver Convention Centre, with more than 1,500 guests and more than $1.43 million raised for Coast Mental Health.
In his address, Courage to Come Back chair Lorne Segal pondered the question of why the event is so popular. “Because,” he said, “at these awards, like nowhere else, we feel the extraordinary power of the ordinary spirit and the deep humanity so often lacking in our daily lives.”
He said, “We all shed a tear tonight and, whether it was a tear of joy, of hope, of love, it was not because we wanted to, but because we needed to. You see, we need to know that, even against the worst hand we could be dealt in life, we too can triumph. Because our six heroes tonight could do it, so can we.
“Each of us came into this room for a different reason, but we will all leave with our nourished souls tied together by one common thread: the unshakeable belief that, by seeing the very best in others – courage, faith, hope, endurance – we will somehow find the strength to face our own fears and achieve our greatest dreams. And for that, we need to thank our six superstars who are symbols of the possibilities which lie within us all.”
This year’s six honorees were Christy Campbell (in the physical rehabilitation category), Jemal Damtawe (addiction), Meredith Graham (social adversity), Dr. Barbara Harris, (mental health), Coltyn Liu (youth) and Tom Teranishi (medical). Since 1999, Courage to Come Back has now honored 103 individuals who have had the “courage to overcome serious adversity, change their lives for the better and move forward to help others do the same.”
Co-hosting the gala evening were Randene Neill and Kevin Evans, while Howard Blank emceed the fundraising portion of the proceedings. In his comments, Blank noted that Coast Mental Health helps an average of 12 clients a day and that its programs address three main pillars: housing, employment and support services.
The largest donation of the evening came from B.C. taxpayers, as Minister of Health Terry Lake donated $100,000 from the province on behalf of Premier Christy Clark and Minister of Finance Mike de Jong. The largest private donation came from Joseph and Rosalie Segal, who contributed $50,000. Many other individuals and companies made donations, several citing the Segal family as their example of what it means to give back to community.
There was no shortage of role models for giving that night, with the six honorees leading the way. There were many meaningful takeaways, including Liu’s statement: “Mom’s lesson: don’t feed the negative monster inside; rather, fight with a belief in yourself and for a reality you want.” And Graham’s reminder that, “sometimes, you can give what you didn’t get.”
“What part will you play,” she asked the crowd, “to change lives today?”