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Lorne Segal is a long-time chair of the Courage to Come Back Awards, which raises money for programs at Coast Mental Health, one of the largest community-based organisations in B.C. providing services for people living with mental health illness.Supplied

The organizer: Lorne Segal

The pitch: Helping raise $22-million and climbing

The cause: Coast Mental Health

When Lorne Segal attended the first Courage to Come Back Awards dinner 25 years ago in Vancouver, he thought it would be just another fundraising event; and then he noticed that every table had a box of Kleenex.

“I’d never seen that before,” Mr. Segal recalled from his home in Vancouver where he is president of Kingswood Properties Ltd. He became enthralled by the stories he heard during the dinner, which honours individuals who have overcome mental-health challenges and given back to their communities.

“I quickly realized that the power of these stories could move anyone to tears,” he said. “I was witnessing the miracles of everyday life and I was moved to tears. And I said, ‘If I feel this way, I know that everyone else would feel this way. We need to hear these stories.’”

Mr. Segal stayed involved with the event’s organizer – Vancouver’s Coast Mental Health – and he has served as chair of the annual dinner for 18 years. This year’s gala will be held on June 9 and it will celebrate community heroes in five categories: mental health, addiction, physical and medical rehabilitation, and youth.

Since its inception, the Courage to Come Back event has raised $22-million for Coast Mental Health’s community-based services, which include housing assistance, job training and other support programs.

Mr. Segal said that even after 25 years, he still tears up when he listens to the recipients. “You walk in with your heart in one place and leave with it in another,” he said of the dinner. He added that the awards ceremony is also an important opportunity to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

“What I think is clear is that we all struggle at times,” he said. “We all have issues, we all have problems. It’s not just the guy on the street. Even the name, the Courage to Come Back, has meaning. We’re all looking for that thing in life to come back from.”

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