MORE than 70 Illawarra firefighters braved strong winds as they hit the fairways recently in memory of former colleagues lost to depression and suicide, while raising $1000 for mental health charity beyondblue.
The event, which took place at Calderwood Valley Golf Course, has been run for two decades by the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union.
However, it was renamed in recent years following the death of Gerringong firefighter Kel Overton.
Illawarra firefighter, FBEU president and Kiama resident Darin Sullivan said in addition to raising money for a good cause, the charity event was about increasing awareness of the impacts of depression, anxiety and suicide, both in the workplace and the community.
‘‘We’ve been holding this golf day for 20 years, but the focus was changed to being a charity fund-raiser for mental illness and depression several years ago after we lost a number of Fire and Rescue NSW firefighters to suicide,” Mr Sullivan said.
“One of those tragically lost to mental illness was Kel Overton, a firefighter who was a much-loved family man, an integral member of the Gerringong community, a proud member of our union, and a real character who never missed this event.
“After his death it was a fitting tribute that the FBEU renamed the event the ‘Kel Classic’.”
Event organisers Mark Duffy, Shane Dallimore, and FBEU Illawarra Sub-Branch secretary Phil Hay were thrilled with the outcome.
“It was a busy period for emergency service workers, with many firefighters working hard throughout the night to respond to weather incidents following wild winds,” Mr Hay said.
“It was extremely pleasing to see our fellow firefighters turn up in droves, many backing up from a busy night shift, to raise money and highlight the very real impacts of depression.
“In an industry where we often come face to face with horrific incidents, it’s easy for the job to take its toll on your mental health, which is why firefighters are so passionate about taking action and helping out those suffering from anxiety and depression.”
Mr Hay said the firefighters’ union hosted several charity events each year, such as the annual Movember fund-raiser, which last year raised $20,000 for men’s health programs.