REACHING OUT - Pictured here is the Grad Service Project Committee of St. Joseph High School. Grad Service Project Week runs April 16th-20th in support of the Smiles Thru Lindsey Foundation and to help bolster awareness about mental health issues and overall well-being both in the youth and the community. photo submitted

Graduating students from St. Joseph High School support a great community cause

Smiles Thru Lindsey Foundation to benefit from fundraising events

Students from the St. Joseph High School graduating class are putting their collective efforts towards supporting a tremendous community cause this month.

Grad Service Project Week kicks off April 16th with one of the main goals being to create a ‘ripple’ effect throughout both the school and the Red Deer community at large, organizers say.

That includes having the Grade 12s themselves work to leave a legacy encouraging younger students to make positive and healthy choices.

Another key goal is to bolster awareness about mental health.

Ashley Visscher, event coordinator at St. Joseph, said the subject of mental health was a huge topic of conversation amongst members of the grad committee in determining where they wanted to focus their efforts for this inaugural year of their service project.

“It’s our first one, so this is a really exciting time for us.”

Conversations about mental health led the committee to get in touch with Rick More of the Smiles Thru Lindsey Foundation. Rick’s daughter, Lindsey, took her life in 2015 at just 22 years of age.

“He did a presentation for us about the Smiles Thru Lindsey Foundation and he really struck a chord with our students. From there, they chose to support and raise awareness for the Smiles Thru Lindsey Foundation this year,” she explained.

During Grad Service Project Week, each day will feature a different event or activity that will aim to both raise funds and awareness, she added.

“Rick will be kicking off the week on the morning of April 16th when we are all gathered together as a school,” she said.

“A lot of our events also include bringing in our ‘feeder’ school students, some Grade nine students who will be coming into Grade 10 here next year.”

Kicking things off on April 16th is ‘Unplug for Mental Health’ Cellphone-free Day.

The goal is to help open up students for real, face-to-face conversations with their teachers, friends, etc.

Other highlights of the week include a restaurant takeover​ at State & Main (South) from 5 – 8 p.m. on April 17th. A portion of food sales will go towards the Smiles Thru Lindsey Foundation, and 100% of ticket sales will go to the Foundation as well.

On April 18th, there will be an on-site photo booth and smile wall open to all staff and students as well – also in support of the Foundation. And on April 19th, it’s ‘Movin’ For Mental Health Exercisathon’.

St. Joseph High School Grade 12 students have invited students from their feeder schools to participate in this event and will run the exercisathon in three ‘waves’ of student groups.

Grade 12 representatives will start each session off with a preliminary presentation about living a healthy life and the importance of exercise on the mind/body/etc.)

On April 20th, it’s ‘Let It Ripple’ Day.

St. Joseph High School will again be hosting Grade 9 students in a strength-based event where they will learn how to increase their confidence upon entering into Grade 10 as well as learn about their character strengths and how to let their personalities shine.

“Their passion and drive for this whole project has really taken off,” said Visscher.

“They’ve had a hand in it from the very beginning from those initial meetings in setting the tone for what they wanted their grad service project to look like,” she said. “The fact that they are also seeing their project all the way through from those initial stages to seeing these events come to life – it’s really inspiring.

“They are really taking ownership of the event, and they are really excited about it. They also want to positively impact those youth who are struggling with these illnesses. They are also really inspired by the sense of community here at St. Joseph – inclusiveness and acceptance of others, so they have a lot of driving factors for sure.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better group to start our grad service projects off with,” she added.

Rick is also thrilled with how the students have come together to support the Foundation.

“They’ve taken it beyond what I thought would ever happen,” he said. “We are honoured by the students doing this.”

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