By: Nicholas Da Cunha & Alexia Del Priore

When Ryerson’s women’s hockey team took the ice on Saturday, the game was about much more than just winning.

This was the team’s fifth annual “Do it For Daron” (DIFD) fundraiser. In partnership with DIFD, the game is turned into an afternoon of raising awareness for youth mental health.

Olivia Giardetti, a second-year forward, said that being a part of the women’s hockey team has changed her view on mental health because all the girls on the team are so open and there’s always someone to talk to.

“I think that’s why when we take part in Do it For Daron, everyone on the team is excited for it because it allows you to feel closer to people that have suffered from mental illnesses,” she said. “It makes you feel more at home knowing that we have all these great girls on our team that are very supportive.”

Do it For Daron is an initiative founded by Luke and Stephanie Richardson, Daron’s parents, in 2010 after she ended her life at the age of 14. The goal behind Do it For Daron is to open the conversation and support youth struggling with mental illness.

Each year to kick off the game, the team chooses two individuals to drop the puck. This year, the puck was dropped by two former Rams players who started the DIFD fundraiser for the team. There was also raffle prizes that had been donated from families and companies, and women’s soccer hosted a bake sale. All proceeds went to DIFD.

Ryerson and the University of Toronto take part in the ceremonial DIFD faceoff before their game on Feb. 2, 2019 (Alex D’addese/Ryerson Athletics)

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CAMH), in 2016, suicide accounted for 19 per cent of deaths among youth aged 10 to 14 and 29 per cent among youth aged 15 to 19. They also reported that 70 per cent of mental health issues have their onset during childhood or adolescence.

Laura Ball, a fourth-year defender, said that it’s important to recognize that you can never be too young to suffer from a mental illness. She said this is another reason why it’s important for younger teams to come out to the DFID game to spread greater awareness.

“Daron was very young when this happened and you might not think that wanting to take your own life affects kids,” Ball said. “Sometimes those demons can be so dark for them at such a young age. It’s probably even harder too because they might not understand what’s going on and they probably don’t know how to talk about it.”

Being student athletes, Ball said people think they have it easier than other students. However, that is not the case.

“The pressure from being a student athlete can actually sometimes break your mental health and I don’t think a lot of people think about that,” she said. “I think that it’s important for a lot of girls to make this game a huge event just so that we can put out that further awareness that if anything is happening — we can talk about it.”

This year Ryerson Athletics introduced the Rams Talk Mental Health Resilience and Support Award. This award was created by former Ryerson Rams women’s hockey player, Janella Brodett, who started the #RamsTalk campaign while she was a student.

The award aims to decrease the stigma related to mental health struggles and mental illness within sport.

The recipient this year was Elexa Pakozdy, a third-year forward for the women’s hockey team.

“I personally have gained a lot of strength by going through mental health struggles and I know a lot of others can say the same,” Pakozdy said. “But it’s important that we have support from our teammates, our families and friends. I had a lot of support while I was struggling which is crucial.”

The total donation amount has not yet been finalized but the team has a rough estimate of around $3,370.

The Rams won the game, defeating the University of Toronto 6-5 in overtime.

This is a joint byline. Ryersonian staff are responsible for the news website edited and produced by final-year undergraduate and graduate journalism students at Ryerson University. It features all the content from the weekly campus newspaper, The Ryersonian, and distributes news and online multimedia, including video newscasts from RyersonianTV. Ryersonian.ca also provides videos, images, and other interactive material in partnership with the School of Journalism.

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