The Donors: Bruce, Russ and Geoff Courtnall
The Gift: Raising $2.9-million, and climbing
The Cause: Victoria Hospitals Foundation
The Reason: To finance mental health services
When the Courtnall children were growing up on Vancouver Island in the 1970s their father, Archie, would often fall into bouts of depression. He would quit work, stay up all night and drink heavily. Mr. Courtnall eventually lost the will to live and committed suicide in August, 1978, at the age of 45.
The children – Bruce, Russ, Geoff and Cheryl – were between the ages of 10 and 17 at the time. They not only lost their father, who coached the boys in hockey and other sports, but also watched their mother, Kathy, struggle to keep the family together. Russ and Geoff went on to lengthy careers in the National Hockey League, while Bruce got into the investment business.
For years the family tried to move on and battled their own issues – health worries for Cheryl, depression and post-concussion syndrome for Geoff.
“You never really deal with these things properly,” Bruce Courtnall recalled from his office in Victoria.
A few years ago the brothers learned that the Victoria Hospitals Foundation was starting a fundraising drive to build a new mental health centre. The family had been eager to support a local cause and this one hit home.
“We thought, ‘Okay, this is perfect,’” Bruce recalled.
The brothers organized an annual golf tournament and after only two events, in 2003 and 2004, they raised $2-million, enough to build the Archie Courtnall Centre for emergency psychiatric care. The centre filled a critical gap in Victoria’s health-care system and serves about 3,000 people a year.
The brothers didn’t plan further golf tournaments, fearing it would become just another celebrity event. But when the same foundation recently began raising money for more mental health services, they revived the golf tournament and raised $900,000 last summer.
The brothers have been overwhelmed by the support for the projects. “It’s been amazing,” said Russ. “When I’m in Victoria people talk to me more about mental health than hockey. It’s breaking down a lot of walls and barriers.”
The family is debating whether to hold more golf tournaments, but has found some healing in their work so far. “We’d like to think that if these services were available when our father was alive, they would have saved his life,” added Bruce.