Time to tee it up for mental health

Courtnall Celebrity Classic festivities start Thursday

Geoff

Geoff

Russ Courtnall is no stranger to pressure, having played in the National Hockey League.

But his life has become a whirlwind of activity recently in the countdown to the third Courtnall Celebrity Classic fundraiser for mental health. The amount of time Russ and his brothers Geoff and Bruce have spent on the phone organizing the event is a sign the fundraiser is near and dear to their hearts.

“It’s because it’s so personal with us, because of what happened to us,” Russ said from his home in L.A. “It’s not just a golf tournament and it’s just not a dinner, it’s more than that. With our dad committing suicide (in 1978), and being so young – I was 13 – unfortunately for us, it’s a big part of our lives, losing our father.”

Previous Classics in 2003 and 2004 combined to raise $2 million to establish the Royal Jubilee Hospital’s Archie Courtnall Centre – named for their father – where people suffering mental-health issues can receive emergency psychiatric care. Since it opened, 20,000 people have been cared for.

“I feel so good about it,” Russ said. “And some (who have received care there) are my friends, and some involved in the first two (fundraisers) have had family members go through it.”

This time around, Russ and Geoff, both former NHLers, and Bruce are looking to contribute to the Victoria Hospital Foundation, which has a goal of raising $4 million to pay for mental-health-care equipment and programs at the new RJH Patient Care Centre. It’s part of the foundation’s larger campaign to generate $25 million in support of the new centre.

Thanks to the brothers’ passion and round-the-clock dedication, around 2,000 people will be in attendance at several events this week, including a gala dinner Friday night (July 22) and a golf tournament Saturday.

Among the dozens of celebrities scheduled to attend include current NHLers Ryan O’Byrne of Victoria (Colorado Avalanche), Central Saanich’s Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars), Vancouver Canucks centre Manny Malhotra, L.A. Kings defenceman Willie Mitchell, and Ron MacLean, co-host of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.

Actors coming include Candace Cameron Bure from Full House and Make It Or Break It, X-Men: First Class actor Matthew Craven, Bold and the Beautiful TV star Jennifer Finnigan, Gena Lee Nolin from Baywatch and The Price is Right, and film actor Deborah Kara Unger from Silent Hill, Thirteen and Crash.

It’s too soon to tell if and when the brothers will hold another Courtnall Celebrity Classic. But they recognize how great the need is for mental health care, which fuels them to continue their efforts. “You help people and it’s so rewarding,” said Russ. “It’s great.”

emccracken@vicnews.com

Event details

• The Courtnall Celebrity Classic kicks off tomorrow (July 21) with a CFAX 1070 radiothon fundraiser from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

• A gala dinner happens Friday (July 22) at the Fairmont Empress at 6 p.m. Cost: $300 a plate.

• The golf tournament goes from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Victoria Golf Club on Saturday.

• For details or to buy a dinner ticket, visit www.courtnallclassic.org.