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Friends With Benefits to raise money for mental health awareness

By Kabriya Coghlan on May 5, 2015

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The fourth annual Friends With Benefits fundraising auction, which supports mental health care and research in Ottawa, will be taking place Friday, May 8 at Lago Bar & Grill. The event will include a silent auction, cocktails, appetizers, and a dance party with a DJ.

The event raises money directly for the Jennie James Depression Research Fund. Jennie James’ family established the fund with the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health in Jennie’s honour, after she took her own life in 2005 following a long battle with depression. The fund supports the patient care and research provided by the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, the Brockville Mental Health Centre, and the University of Ottawa Institute of Mental Health.

The Friends With Benefits event was started by Laura Hammond, a friend of Jennie James, in 2012, and has grown bigger and bigger ever year. It’s raised a total of almost $50,000, and their goal is to raise over $100,000 by the end of next year’s event.

Photo from the Friends with Benefits fundraiser, 2014.

Photo from the Friends with Benefits fundraiser, 2014.

“You know, it’s a great cause, but more than that, we have just a blast,” said Heidi Rodger, one of the event organizers.

“It’s a ton of fun, it doesn’t cost a lot of money, and all of the proceeds do go directly to the fund, because we’ve received enough sponsorship to cover the cost. So that’s the good thing, that really every ticket that is sold goes directly to the cause. 100%.”

The silent auction this year will include a pair of Ottawa Senators tickets for a 2015-2016 game, an Escape Manor gift certificate for six people, a one-night stay and breakfast for two at the Ottawa Westin Hotel, and many other prizes of all kinds.

“This year we’ve really cashed in on our tongue-in-cheek name, Friends With Benefits, and we’re going to be doing a bachelor/bachelorette auction…” said Heidi Rodger. The highest bidder will be treated to a dinner out with their chosen bachelor or bachelorette.

One of the goals of the Friends with Benefits event is to encourage dialogue about mental health and depression and reduce social stigmas. Rodger said that since the event began she thinks people are starting to talk about these issues more.

“I certainly think that we’ve increased the dialogue and communication, but I just think that more and more we (still) need to focus on it. It’ll never be enough,” Rodger said.

“It’s still hard for people that suffer from (depression), myself included, to be open about it, to talk about it, but the more that people do, I think the better people will be feeling…more comfortable and accepted.”

Tickets for Friends With Benefits are $25 and can be purchased here. The silent auction will run from 7:30-9:45 p.m., and the party will continue until 2 a.m. Lago Bar and Grill is at 1001 Queen Elizabeth Drive. 

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