friends with benefits – fundraising for mental health

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Laura Hammond photographed at the Parkdale Market, in Hintonburg.

We were contacted a few weeks ago by Laura Hammond, a very enthusiastic woman raising awareness for the fundraising event ‘Friends With Benefits’, with proceeds going to the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Association. Although she now resides in Toronto, this Ottawan still has deep roots in the community and runs this event, now in its 4th year, in order to raise much needed money for life-saving mental health research.

When we met with Laura this afternoon, she emphasized how the event is a great way to show that there are people in the Ottawa community who are living  and thriving, despite having a mental illness. We are honoured to have Laura share some of her story, below.

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

“I have struggled with recurrent depression since my early 20’s. You might not think it to look at me: I have a great job, a wonderful family and friends and have accomplished much.  Despite this, I often struggle with my mood and feeling good.”

“When I was in my early 20’s and was first diagnosed, I lost my second year at university and was hospitalized. What people don’t know is that depression and other mental health crises are much like a major injury or surgery: it can take months to get back to feeling normal or discovering your new normal.”

“During my treatment at the Royal, I met a woman named Jennie. Jennie was ten years older and she was everything: gorgeous, smart, accomplished, well travelled, adored by friends and family.  I could go on!  But she too was struggling and couldn’t see how amazing she was and all of the skills she had to overcome her depression.  In 2005, at the age of 33 Jennie took her own life.  She described depression as being like a familiar friend that kept coming back.”

“In 2012 I decided that I had to turn my daily thoughts of Jennie and mourning the loss of her into something productive. I partnered Jennie’s family and a group of my friends to crest Friends With Benefits in support of the Jennie James Depression Research Fund at the Royal Ottawa.”

“Our first event in 2012 started with a goal of raising $5000. We sold out and raised over $12,000.  Since then, we continue to raise more money every year. We have now raised close to $50,000 in three years and we are hoping to make it even more.”

“Ottawa will always be home. My family and friends are here and I love coming back to visit whenever I can. To me a perfect Ottawa day is a run along the canal, a coffee from one of our amazing local coffee shops with CBC Ottawa Morning on the radio and visits with family and friends. Toronto may be bigger but Ottawa has heart and it has my heart – amazing people doing amazing things to put it on the map as a cultural destination.”

Tonight’s event at Lago starts at 7:30 pm. There are over 40 silent auction items from amazing local businesses, 2 trips and a signed Alfresson jersey up for live auction. There will be dancing, food and conversation about living and thriving despite being challenged by a mental health issue.

Tickets for tonight’s event are still available! $25 available on their event blog as well as other great information:, or at the door for $30. You can also follow them on Twitter at @FWBOttawa

Categorised as: Dwayne Brown Studio, loveOttawa

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