Two Whistler residents have been honoured for their service to health care and sports after receiving Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medals in a ceremony with Premier Christy Clark last Thursday (Jan. 31).
Ginny Dennehy was awarded the medal for her contribution to raising awareness about mental health, while Rick Hume received the acknowledgement for his many years of work with the sport of downhill skiing.
“The British Columbians being recognized today come from different backgrounds, different paths in life, but their common desire to help their friends, family and neighbours have made our province a better place for all of us,” said Clark at the award ceremony, which saw 84 British Columbians honoured. “As pillars in our communities we find their leadership inspirational, and this medal is a symbol of our gratitude.”
In 2001, Dennehy and her husband Kerry lost their 17-year-old son Kelty to suicide. It was a tragedy that launched them on a path to raise awareness about teenage suicide, depression and mental health by founding the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation. In 2009 their 23-year-old daughter Riley, who struggled with the loss of her brother, passed away suddenly while travelling in Asia.
Determination to help others after the loss of their two children helped transform the focus of the foundation’s work to recognize that depression and mental illness effects everyone in a family and a community as well.
Dennehy said she was shocked to find out about the Jubilee medal because she sees her work as something she just had to do after the loss of Kelty 12 years ago.
“I was very shocked, because I kind of think you don’t have any other choice … You do it because you need to do it, you don’t want anybody to go down the same path as we did,” she said. “When I got the phone call I though ‘oh my goodness. There are so many other Canadians out there who are doing so many amazing things; I am doing my little thing trying to help people.’
“To be recognized in that way was quite an honour.”
The foundation’s work has been to fund and assist programs and research aimed at increasing awareness of issues related to depression and youth. To date it has raised over
$4.1 million and most recently contributed $500,000 to the Lion’s Gate Hospital Foundation to develop a Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre, which will be part of the HOpe Centre for Mental Health and Addictions currently under construction.
Dennehy said she has seen change since the foundation was founded and people are talking about mental illness more, but there is more to be done to raise awareness and work with other groups and programs.
“I truly believe this is not about the individual program — it is together that we are going to make a difference with all these organizations and people committed — that change will happen,” she said. “We share our story very openly because we want to help people understand that this is a disease that can affect anyone it doesn’t matter what background you are from or what house you live in.”
Hume was also surprised to receive word that he was getting the Jubilee medal, let alone that he was nominated for the honour.
“I am very grateful that I was nominated,” he said. “It was pretty exciting, I still don’t know who really nominated me other than it was for sport.
“My kids are pretty proud of me and relatives and friends … I guess I’m not that type of person who goes out and shares it with the world, the recognition part.”
Hume has been involved in ski racing since 1987 when he and his family lived in Smithers. In 1993 they moved to Whistler and his children became involved with the Whistler Mountain Ski Club and Hume with the Weasel Workers.
“What I normally do and my passion is the course works, so it is in the track preparation and the installation of the safety netting for the athletes,” he said. “I really enjoy the technical part, ensuring that safety is paramount and we get it right. It is working with all the people and the volunteers, they are there for all different reasons, and I just enjoy the people and the camaraderie that comes from that.”
Hume has been involved in hundreds of races over the years, including the 2010 Olympics, and the annual Winterstart event in Lake Louise, and has even worked on events in the Unites States and Europe.
When not on the race course, he heads up the facilities and services department for the local school board.
The medals are being handed out to mark the 2012 celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne. Like Her Majesty, those recognized have dedicated themselves in service to their fellow citizens, community and country.
During the year of celebrations approximately 60,000 medals are expected to be awarded with the government of B.C. presenting around 760 of those.