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Courage To Come Back Awards return in-person Friday for first time since 2019

Back and in-person Friday for the first time in four years, the Coast Mental Health Courage To Come Back Awards recognize five British Columbians who have overcome extraordinary odds.

This year marks 25 years since the start of the event. Local business leader and philanthropist Lorne Segal has been the chair for the past 18.

“You know, when I signed up for the job, I didn’t realize that it was going to be this long,” he admitted. “So why does anyone stick with something [this long]?”

The answer is the stories. Courage recognizes five British Columbians in the categories of Addiction, Medical, Mental Health, Physical Rehabilitation, and Youth.

Segal recalls seeing boxes of tissue on all the tables at his first gala. He would soon find out why.

“I was moved to tears. So was everyone else,” he recalled. “And I said to myself, ‘You know what, we need to hear these stories because they give us all hope.’ And I said, ‘If I feel this way, I’m sure that anyone I know would feel this way.'”

Segal admits coming up with the final five is no easy task for the judges.

“Everyone has to reach a unanimous decision, or no one leaves the room,” he explained. “It could go on for days. You want to give it to everyone because the stories are so gut-wrenching, but you can’t.”

Like many fundraisers, Courage was forced to pivot due to the pandemic.

“Of course, it was a big challenge to adapt because so much of so much of Courage in particular really relates to human interaction.”

Segal and his team managed to maintain interest with individual fundraisers and virtual events, including a half-hour prime-time TV special that was also live-streamed on CityNews Vancouver.

Awards return after in-person hiatus due to COVID-19

He admits he was a little apprehensive about putting together an in-person gathering after all this time.

“You’re not sure if people are going to come out. I mean, we had a lot of questions just coming out of the pandemic. But we reached out and we were able to fill the room, sell it out, and, in fact, [and even] turn people away.”

Segal says it’s remarkable that three years ago, we were barely allowed to have 10 people in a single room at once, now, he’s looking at a sold-out ballroom at the Convention Centre, with 1,700 people confirmed and many more on a waiting list.

“I think it’s saying a lot for maybe the idea that people are ready to get together and celebrate. But I’d like to think [it] also has a lot to do with what courage is all about.”

To date, the event raised more than $22 million for Coast Mental Health and its programs.

Segal notes besides raising money, Courage has done a lot to raise awareness as well.

“You go back 25 years. I mean, people just were not talking about mental health. It was not the sexiest cause on the block and events like this have created a lot of awareness. People are talking now.”

He calls Courage the “Oscars,” but for life.

“You know, we all have our heroes. These are mine.”

City News is a proud sponsor of the Coast Mental Health Courage to Come Back Awards, celebrating 25 years of raising critical funds for British Columbians living with mental illness.

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