Toronto Marlies’ Rich Clune to speak at Friday Night Lights fundraiser

Toronto Marlies’ forward Richard Clune will share his struggles with mental health at next month’s Friday Night Lights fundraiser in Peterborough.

The seventh annual Friday Night Lights is set for Oct. 4 at Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School. The daylong event, hosted by Team 55, raises funds in support of the assertive outreach suicide prevention (ASOP) program run by the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge branch (CMHA HKPR).

Launched in June 2016, the ASOP program provides followup support to individuals and families of those who have made a serious attempt to take their own lives.

“When we took this on, we pledged $40,000 a year for two years,” said Dave Pogue, founder of Team 55, noting the total cost of the program is approximately double their pledge. “We’ve come on board to pledge another $40,000 for the fourth year. All the funds raised will go to this program.”

During the event’s opening ceremonies, Clune, 32, will speak about his struggles with addiction and mental health. The Toronto native was drafted 71st overall in 2005 by the Dallas Stars. He has played 139 games in the NHL for the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators. For the past six seasons he has played in the American Hockey League with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ affiliate Marlies.

“The opening ceremonies are your chance to hear from our guest speaker and listen to impactful stories that will inspire you to support mental health in any way you can,” said Pogue. “We hope if any audience members are still reluctant to talk about mental health that this will encourage them to seek help.”

Friday Night Lights kicks off at noon with a barbecue followed by a number of high school football games throughout the day and evening. Team 55 merchandise will be for sale and a representative from CMHA will be available to discuss their programs and services, including the ASOP program.

Jack Veitch, manager of community engagement and education for the CMHA HKPR, says his organization relies on local funding for the ASOP program since two proposals for funding under the previous provincial government, to date have yet to be approved.

“We are so grateful for the support of Team 55 as well as all donors who make this program possible,” he said. “Their dedication to mental health and suicide awareness has had an incredible impact on the lives of so many in our community.”

“That said, in order for this remarkable program to be truly sustainable, we cannot continue to rely on members of our community to raise or donate the funds. The AOSP program is changing lives throughout Haliburton, Kawartha, and Pine Ridge and we believe it could change lives across Ontario, should government funding be made available.”

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