Unspoken Conversations are the topics that are often swept under the carpet, whispered amongst the closest of friends and bitched about by many. I want to create awareness about difficult things that people face in life; grief, mental health, money, illnesses, family troubles, relationship difficulties and putting yourself first. I want to tell the truth about things that really matter.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Dreams Really Can Come True

For the first time in my life I am left speechless; pondering how I am meant to express my sincere gratitude, happiness and disbelief at making a real life dream come true.

Yes that's right, something that I had conjured up in my wildest imagination as a vision for promoting mental wellbeing in my local community has been bought to life by the overwhelming support of a fantastic committee of 4 amazing ladies, the support of a local non for profit organization and the generous donations from local businesses.

To say that I am blown away, filled with hope, love and inspiration is a complete understatement.

Making my dream a reality has taught me that no goal is too big, and no dream unattainable, if you are willing to voice your ideas, reach out to networks for support and invest time and energy along with a positive attitude to shift your ideas from your mind into action.

So what is the big goal that I achieved and just how did I go about it?

I had a dream to create a gala dinner full of fun, colour and frivolity that would bring together people of all ages and backgrounds in my local community to raise awareness and funds for mental health.

My brain must of looked like a computer screen with pop ups dinging every 2 seconds as ideas filled my head but I had no idea where to start, who to talk to, how on earth I was going to finance the event, if anyone would even be interested in attending, where to have it, and just how I'd manage bringing it all together while working full time and juggling life's demands.

I did however know that I had this burning desire to share my idea with others in the off chance that someone out there might be keen to share my enthusiasm and vision and to jump on board to make it happen.

My opportunity arose during mental health week in 2013, when, after working with Emma Pedler to share locals experiences with mental health on ABC Open, I mentioned that my next big dream would be to create a gala dinner.

***note to anyone else with an idea but you're not sure where to start; local radio stations, newspapers and services have huge networks of people in your local area and may be able to point you in the direction of like minded candidates to jump on board!

I very nervously remember writing an email to a list of potential committee members given to me by Simone Gilliam from Country Arts SA,  introducing my grand idea with as much passion and excitement as I could cram into an email in hope that someone out there would respond.

And then I waited, hoping and praying.

With 24 hours I had a reply from a lady called Angela Cordon, who worked for Country Health.

I couldn't believe my luck and for the first time I realized that maybe, just maybe, this dream had the potential to be filled.

All of a sudden there was this amazing momentum and energy around my idea. I remember Ang saying that "sometimes we have to through our ideas up in the air and if it's meant to be then something will stick" and wow, I must have lucked out as things starting to stick like glue and before I knew it, I was meeting with Penny Will, another local lady keen to create awareness about mental health over coffee to share ideas!

Wow; my head was left spilling and I felt giddy; I must have been walking around with an almighty big spring in my step; this was really going to happen!

But wait,  it was all well and good to have a gala dinner but where was the money going to go that we raised?!

That's when we met Joanne Clark from West Coast Youth and Community Support.  As soon as I met Jo I knew that this was the service that had captured my heart. I was blown away with their generosity and commitment to offer support to everyone who knocked on their door in search for hope. Being a non for profit organization meant that every cent counted to be able to offer support to those in serious need. With a 11 to 12 week wait to see a psychologist on the Eyre Peninsula, I saw this service struggling to fill the demands of local community members who just needed zome reassurance that everything would be okay, to be able to speak to someone who truly cared and to be pointed in the right direction towards the help they so desperately needed. That's when we devised the plan for a Mental Wellbeing Program that would reach out to communities in the hope of providing the information,  support and contacts for services so that we could create a mentally fit Eyre Peninsula.

I soon realized that this dream of mine was going to be bigger and better then I ever could've ever imagined.

Yes, I think there were times where I lliterally pinched myself waiting to wake up for my amazing dream!

We knew that we wanted to hold a gala dinner and we knew where the funds were going to go but we still needed financial support to help make our dream fly.

That's when Bendigo Bank came on the scene. Now I for one am incredibly nervous when it comes to public speaking but when we were invited to speak at the banks joint meeting I knew that it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. While I fumbled my way through a speech with our vision I could see their faces light up and soon after,  we were notified that both the Cummins and Port Lincoln Bendigo Banks were keen to sponsor our vision.

These generous donations meant that we could definitely deliver a 3 week wellbeing program in Cummins, Tumby Bay and Port Lincoln in both the schools and community and gave us the confidence and reassurance that all of our hard work would be rewarded; we were just so grateful that they believed in what we were trying to achieve and could see the real benefits for our community.

***Banks, local councils and services are a great place to start for funding, particularly community banks like Bendigo Bank, who promise to commit some of their profits back into benefiting the health and well being of the community.

Before we knew it we had the theme "Life's a Circus", and our advertising campaign went into full swing.

***It's definitely worth investing time and money into advertising and/or approaching a designer and printing press to create professional posters and materials as this will help to give your event the edge that it will need to entice people to come along! I'm sure you'll be surprised at the generosity of these people!

We created a Facebook page to promote the event, contacted local radio and news stations and newspapers and within just over a week the event was sold out!

Sold out; yes we had to pinch ourselves! We were all so chuffed!

We then created sponsorship and donation letters that were sent out to pretty much everyone we could think of in our local community looking for auction items to be sold on the night as a form of revenue for our Mental Wellbeing Program.

We could not believe the generosity of local business owners and individuals who jumped on board to support our cause.

Fast forward a solid 6 months of planning and what we have is a sold out "Life's a Circus Gala Dinner" supported by people of all ages who were greeted by dancing clowns,  balloon balls and a red carpet, seated beneath a red and yellow high top ceiling, while being entertained by Jazz it Up with lead singer Sarah Lloyde from The Voice and a memorable performance by comedian and expressionist Jo Zealand, while eating local delicacies by Kris Bunder from Del Giornos,  bidding on silent and live auction items and dancing the night away!

While we are still finalizing funds, we're hoping to crack our target of $20,000 raised towards qualified counselors delivering information sessions in our local community.

The realization of what we have achieved truly blows me away and restores hope in me that there are still people out there with so much generosity with their time and finances who are equally as passionate about making a real difference in society.

For those of you who have followed my blog or know me personally then you're aware that mental health has impacted my life in a big way, and that just 4 years ago it was I who struggled with the debilitating illness that is depression. If anything, I want to give hope to people out there that there is a life after depression. I truly believe that my mental illness has enriched my life because it has ignited inside of me a passion to help others and to appreciate all of the little things that otherwise would've gone by unnoticed. By sharing our stories we create opportunities for change,  and hopefully events like this gala dinner and programs similar to the mental wellbeing one that we re about to venture on, will help to save lives and enrich our communities with the knowledge, understanding and tools to live a mentally fit life.

Please believe me when I say that no dream is too big, and that you too, can grab life by the balls and give it a good shake up!

I could not have achieved my dream without some very special people who supported me 100% of the way; so to Angela Cordon, Leonie Green, Penny Will, Ashley Lawrie, Jo Clark, Simone Gilliam, Emma Pedler, Rotary, Cummins and Port Lincoln Bendigo Banks, Life Without Barriers, Medicare Local,  Emma Forster, Sarins, local businesses who donated auction items, the glamorous guests on the night, raffle ticket purchasers and everyone else in between (I'm sure I have forgotten somebody), thank you for helping to bring my dream to life.

Just remember that you too, can create the opportunity to bring your dreams to life. Sometimes the hardest step is having the courage to voice your idea to others,  but once you do, you might just find yourself surprised by the support you'll recieve; you never know what might stick!

Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxx

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