WELLINGTON NORTH – Since losing her son Micheal by suicide in November of 2016, Lynn Brandwood has felt like a piece of herself is missing.
“It’s like an emptiness that lives within you forever,” she said in an interview with the Advertiser.
This emptiness has driven Brandwood to ensure youth in Wellington County have access to the supports they need to thrive.
“I needed a purpose,” she said.
So she launched The Power Is In The Grip, a fundraising initiative that organizes two annual events to raise money for The Grove Youth Wellness Hubs: a golf tournament and an ATV ride.
“We raise money for the youths and young adults of today that are struggling with mental health,” Brandwood said.
So far, the fundraisers have raised almost $5,000 with the goal of helping more youth access treatment to reduce the risk of suicide.
Here4Hope, a Wellington-based life promotion and suicide prevention project, has recognized Brandwood’s contributions by awarding her with the Neil Dunsmore Power of One Award.
The annual award goes to someone in Wellington County “whose actions have made a significant contribution to promoting life and preventing suicide.”
Dunsmore walked 500km from Elora to Ottawa in 2020 to raise money for the Cody Sheppard Project and spread awareness about mental health and suicide.
“Lynn Brandwood exhibits the same qualities that Neil exemplified as he inspired us with each step,” stated Here4Hope project lead Cecilia Marie Roberts in a Sept. 11 press release.
“When an individual takes a tragic loss and makes meaning of it through service, they become a gift to their community.”
Brandwood said when she heard she was chosen for the award it was “quite a shock,” particularly as organizing the Grove fundraising events is a team effort.
“It’s not just me, it’s everybody who helped out,” she said. “Without support of the community … I wouldn’t be doing this.”
Brandwood said when she lost her son, she didn’t know he was struggling and didn’t have resources to lean on.
“Just one night at 10 at night I found him, and it rocked my world, and it has since,” she said.
Michael was 27 years old when he died.
“As a mom, I thought I knew him. He was outgoing, would help anybody – had a heart of gold,” Brandwood said.
“He loved the country – we moved out here in 2011 and fell in love with this area.”
They bought a property just outside of Damascus and started rescuing animals, including horses, dogs, cats and a pig named after Michael – “MacGyver.”
“Michael always struggled academically but could do anything with his hands,” Brandwood said, pondering whether the academic struggles could have contributed to his death.
Brandwood said she will forever question why it happened, wishing she had answers.
She chose the Grove Hub carefully as the recipient of her fundraising efforts, after researching many different organizations that provide services for youth. She was impressed by what the hubs offer.
“I thought, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know they existed,’ so I wanted to promote them and let the kids know there is a place to go,” she said.
“Hopefully we reach kids – that’s all it’s about – getting the stigma out of it, get rid of the silence, make sure people know that they aren’t alone.”
The Grove Hubs provide a one-stop-shop for youth aged 12 to 26 to access a wide range of services, including mental health, substance use, primary care, education, employment, training, housing, and other community and social services.
There are Grove Hubs in Palmerston, Erin, Fergus and Guelph.
Executive director Jeff Hossman said officials really appreciate the work Brandwood does to support youth in the community, as “it makes a real impact.”
“In honour of Michael, I now stand for those that cannot speak for themselves,” Brandwood said.
“I now fight to help those that feel alone. I now raise awareness about the power of love and support.”
The next ATV Charity Ride is on Oct. 14 in Fenlon Falls. The next The Power Is In The Grip golf tournament is expected to take place next June.
For more information about The Power Is In The Grip, or to register for the ATV Charity Ride, visit The Power Is In The Grip on Facebook.