The ninth annual Ski for Life event officially starts tomorrow, with hundreds of South Australians heading to Murray Bridge for a weekend of skiing and fundraising, for a cause.
Beginning on the mighty Murray River, the nearly 500-kilometre event will run over the course of the weekend with teams from across the nation, made up of everyday Australians, skiing to Renmark. It’s an event that has occurred each March since its inception in 2012, fundraising to support community projects and running to raise awareness of mental health, well-being and suicide prevention.
This year at least 300 participants will make the journey, described as transformative and as an occasion that organisers say they await the entire year. At Ski for Life’s heart, however, remains a purpose that has become more significant in recent times.
According to the federal Department of Health, almost half of Australians experience some form of mental illness at some point in their lifetime. In addition, the 2019 bushfires and the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly affected the mental health and well-being of many people across the country.
A well-known name in local agriculture and agribusiness, Mark Facy heads the grants committee for Ski for Life. He believes the event has taken on a new significance after the challenges of 2020. “It is a huge event,” Mr Facy told The SE Voice. “Ski for Life is primarily about a group of people who have been affected by losses of friends and family to suicide, who are very passionate about trying to create better mental health and support networks.
“I think 2020 has highlighted the value of it. It’s directed families and people to get close to each other again.” It’s an event that Mr Facy says he looks forward to for the entire year. But Ski for Life also plays a part in fundraising for projects that are predominantly based in rural and regional Australia.
This includes supporting projects in areas of severe drought, where “there are just horrendous stories of people struggling”. Tapping into the need for action, Mr Facy revealed Ski for Life would support the work of Mary O’Brien and her organisation, Are you bogged mate?
Ski for Life supports other events and has the backing of its ambassador Ben Pettingill, an extraordinary Australian who, after losing his eyesight at 16, is now a skier and motivational speaker. “We’re trying to let people know that it’s initially okay to feel crap,” Mr Facy said.
“It’s okay to have a bad day – there’s nothing wrong with it and we all have them. “And I think what’s lost in today’s patchwork of society in today’s ‘busyness’ is that time spent with your mates, that time spent with family.”
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to join Ski for Life at its next event to raise awareness and promote mental health, wellbeing and suicide prevention.