supporting Blake Loates & the Canadian Mental Health Association
May 2-8 2016
The kick off to our LOVEPIZZA Gives program was with a very regular customer of ours, Blake Loates. She is a professional photographer in Edmonton, a mental health advocate and a big pizza fan. Blake was working on a project called We All Believe in You to bring awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental health. Blake held an evening at our beautiful Art Gallery of Alberta with 50 stories and 50 gorgeous portraits of Edmontonians who were willing to share their stories, battles and messages of hope. That evening made you want to think, cry and most of all LISTEN. You know that feeling when you're standing in a room filled with inspiring people and you get a couple rounds of goosebumps? That was us when we were listening to Blake share her story.
We All Believe in You event at the AGA
When I first met Blake Loates a few weeks prior to her big event, she gave me a hug. A big one. She meant it. That was when Gavin and I decided to kick off our LOVEPIZZA Gives program with her We All Believe in You initiative. Over the past year or so I’ve come to know a lot more about Blake and what she stands for. We’ve laughed together, cried together and we've made her a few pizzas too. When she said she was looking for volunteers a few weeks ago for a Canadian Mental Health Association project for Suicide Prevention Week, it was something that both Gavin and myself knew we needed to be a part of. When Blake asked me to write a note of hope for my photo – I wrote this
photo by Blake Loates
And now I’ll tell you why.
In November 2009 my family was forever changed. We very quickly lost a piece of our puzzle. You never think it can happen to “your family” – but it did. I think about my uncle every day. He had the warmest smile and a raspy warmth in his voice that I now hear in his two boys, my cousins. We miss him every day. Did this change the way I look at mental health and suicide – yes.
These are the words I wish I could have said to him. These are the words I have said or typed to Blake so many times. These are the words I can only hope will help someone today or next week or next year. You are a gift and these words are for you.
I am so proud of Blake. She has given this cause a voice, a face and her heart.
This first LOVEPIZZA Gives week was a particularly important one. It made us want to do more, to share more and get people to think about the world that surrounds them. Sharing our stories and what makes our hearts beat is the first step to that.
Our first week of LOVEPIZZA Gives was really bittersweet. Our neighbours to the north in Fort McMurray, Alberta were experiencing a devastating forest fire that destroyed much of their city. We wanted to do what we could to help so we opened our little restaurant and our hearts to the fine folks of that hardworking city. Over the span of about a week we have provided just over $1000 of complimentary meals to individuals and families who have been displaced by the fires. We were really touched by each one of their stories and how appreciative they were to have a few moments of normalcy eating our pizza in a calm environment.
Our debut week of LOVEPIZZA Gives was to focus on We All Believe in You, a very special movement to bring awareness to mental health issues. $1 from every pizza we served during that week was donated to the Canadian Mental Health Association. This is an organization that has always been an important one. With the events that happened in our province we believe that the CMHA is even more critical. Mental illness takes on MANY forms - from depression to anxiety disorders to grieving and post-traumatic stress disorder. During this very stressful time for many Albertans we really believe that mental health is a crucial piece of this puzzle. We are happy to report that close to 1,800 pizzas were served out of our little restaurant during that week in May. $1,800 will be donated from LOVEPIZZA to (as the CMHA puts it) "facilitate access to the resources people require to maintain and improve mental health and community integration, build resilience and support recovery from mental illness."
And we think that's pretty important.