COVID-19: Calgary teen’s ‘amazing’ charity event supports youth mental health

A lot of young Calgarians are suffering mental health challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and now they’re getting some help from a 15-year-old girl who’s showing plenty of drive as she sets out to make a difference.

Xara Sylvestre is putting her love of golf to good use as she organizes a long drive charity event to raise money to support mental health treatment.

Sylvestre said she’s seen a lot of young Calgarians struggling in recent months, with COVID-19 restrictions closing schools and shutting down so many activities.

Read more: ‘They won’t forget this’: Mom concerned about children’s mental health after COVID-19 pandemic

“I think the cancellation of those events, and just not being able to see people and being isolated, has really, really impacted mental health amongst teens,” she said.

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“Me personally, I’ve struggled throughout the pandemic (with) anxiety and depression — not diagnosed — because I was too scared to ask for help.”

Sylvestre is now trying to help others by organizing the Longest Drive for Mental Health fundraising competition at the Golf Centre at Harvest Hills in northeast Calgary.

Read more: UBC study finds teachers report decline in mental health amid COVID-19 pandemic

The event will raise money for Alberta Health Services’ new Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, which is now under construction in northwest Calgary.

The facility will provide treatment for people like Carrie Newman’s 13-year-old son.

“He’s struggled with anxiety mostly his whole life, sometimes not even wanting to leave the house for months on end,” Newman said, adding that she’s grateful for Sylvestre’s fundraising efforts. “To do it at 15 is pretty amazing.”

Read more: Morale at an ‘all-time low’: Post-secondary students grapple with COVID-19 fatigue

Sylvestre’s father said her family is very proud of her.

“She’s just passionate about helping people and I think the passion really helps her put on such a great event,” Sean Sylvestre said.

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The Longest Drive for Mental Health competition happens from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday July 24, with more information available here.

‘We are super, super excited to see how much money we can raise,” Xara Sylvestre said, “and really to just end the stigma of mental health.”

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