For more than 10 years, Ginny Dennehy has devoted her life to raising awareness about youth depression and suicide following the loss of her son, Kelty, to the illness in 2001. And last Thursday (May 24), she was honoured for her work when the YWCA presented her with a prestigious Women of Distinction Award.
The awards are given out to extraordinary individuals and organizations for going above and beyond in 11 categories. Dennehy, who co-founded the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation with her husband Kerry, was nominated in the Community Building category.
Though Dennehy insisted just a week before the awards event that she wasn't going to win, she ended up taking home the honour - much to her surprise.
"I was very, very shocked because there were a lot of amazing people in the category and it is an honour, I must say," Dennehy told The Question on Friday (May 25). "It's just such an honour to be recognized, but I just think that I have to do this work that I'm doing."
The 2012 YWCA Women of Distinction Awards took place in Vancouver and drew over 1,000 guests.
Other nominees in the Community Building category included the founders of The Looking Glass Foundation, an organization dedicated to combating eating disorders, the chair of the PALS Autism School Society and the vice president of the Children of the Street Society, which is dedicated to aiding homeless youths.
"They were all amazing people and everybody in that Community Building awards category, they were all really trying to make a difference and basically trying to make their communities a better place," said Dennehy. "For me, it's about giving back to the Whistler community because that's where I belong and I'm proud to be here."
For Dennehy, who also lost her daughter, Riley, in 2009 in an incident unrelated to depression, all of her work has been in memory of her two children. While Riley did not die as a result of depression, she did struggle with an eating disorder and alcohol use following her brother's death.
"Losing two children is the worst thing that could ever happen to anybody in their life, but the work that I do is in honour of them," said Dennehy. "I want to try to do anything to help so that no other family has to go through what we went through. By talking about it and raising funds, raising the awareness of depression and mental illness in youth, I think what's really important is to not be afraid to talk about it."
When asked where she goes from here, Dennehy said that while it was an honour to be recognized by the YWCA, her work was far from over.
"I would continue doing this no matter what," she said. "I have to make a difference for those people who suffer from depression because I feel so strongly that we need to talk about it and do something. No matter what happens to you in your life, it's up to you to make the changes and help other people -so it just kind of comes naturally to me."
For more information about the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation, go to www.thekeltyfoundation.org.