Two Newcastle-based buddies are donning their running shoes and hitting the road in memory of a friend they lost to suicide last year.
Jack Mitchell and Max Sandstrom were high school mates of Eden Buckingham, son of NSW MP Jeremy Buckingham, who took his own life at the age of 23.
And, in the wake of this heart-wrenching event, they’ve embarked on a journey, which has transformed from a personal endeavour into a burgeoning community movement with the potential to change lives.
Now, they’re about to take it another step further.
On Monday 25 September, the pair will depart the Nobbys Headland car park and head for the Gold Coast, a challenging 14 days, for their latest initiative, Run for Eden.
The idea is to turn a negative into something positive in the face of tragedy.
“After Eden died, it was just such a shattering experience for everyone who knew and loved him,” Jack said.
“We wanted to bring some light into the situation… and to highlight the importance of fitness and running to good mental health.
“Our goal is not only to honour the memory of our beloved friend.
“But, it’s also to raise vital funds for mental health support and awareness.
“The impact of Eden’s passing has inspired us to channel our grief into a force for good.
“We want to make people aware of the importance of addressing mental health struggles and fostering a sense of community.
“While we are the faces of Run for Eden, there is an entire network of like-minded individuals working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure our success in assisting a charity like Beyond Blue.”
The Newcastle-to-Gold Coast route was chosen to take in Bellingen, too, where the three boys first became mates.
“To lose Eden has been devastating to his family and friends, the grief is as deep as the love we will always have for him,” Mr Buckingham said.
“It is crucial not to lose yourself to despair and find hope through action, to live well in their memory.
“I am so proud of Jack and Max… to find a way out of the darkness and, through this monumental effort, take action to support those working at the frontlines to reduce suicide deaths in our community.”
Run for Eden is already on track to raise $10,000 for suicide prevention programs run by Beyond Blue.
Community fundraising manager Zareen Syed said the organisation was grateful to generous supporters.
“One-in-five Australians is living with depression, anxiety or both and, tragically, nine Australians take their own lives every day,” she explained.
“It costs $66 each time a mental health professional at our support service responds to a person in need, which means the funds Jack and Max are raising ensures more than 80 people can access support when they need it the most.”
Suicide is the single biggest killer of young Australians, claiming about 35% of all lives of young people aged 15-24.
Follow the boys on Instagram @run4eden2023.
For more community stories:
- HVO grant helps train more Singleton mental health first-aiders
- Learn how to make a difference at the 2023 Volunteer Expo
- University of Newcastle throws support behind Yes vote
Get all the latest Newcastle news, sport, real estate, entertainment, lifestyle and more delivered straight to your inbox with the Newcastle Weekly Daily Newsletter. Sign up here.