Mike Weir (Photo Courtesy of Bob Weeks)

Stories of troubled youth inspired Weir mental health campaign

“Eye-opening” accounts of troubled youth in his hometown led Sarnia’s Mike Weir to launch a fundraising campaign for a youth mental health facility.

The Mike Weir Foundation announced The Chip-In-Challenge for Mental Health last month to help build an Access Open Minds facility for youth aged 11 to 25. The foundation has pledged to match donations up to $200,000.

In an interview with BlackburnNews.com, Weir said foundation board member Wendy Bennett made him aware of troubling issues in Sarnia.

“Her telling me how many kids have been struggling with their mental health, how many suicides there have been which was reiterated by my niece and nephew and it was just eye-opening to hear that,” said Weir. “When we dug deeper, we found that Sarnia was in a real need of a facility for kids, so that’s what prompted us to get the ball rolling.”

An Access Open Minds facility in Chatham-Kent has been operating for three years.

Weir said the campaign is all about bringing that kind of support to Sarnia-Lambton.

“We’re super excited about it, we’ve learned a lot from the Access Open Minds facility in Chatham and we want to mirror that model and have that kind of facility in Sarnia,” he said. “I think it’s time, it’s due, it’s what the kids need — they need a place where they can feel safe and where they can learn some skills to cope with whatever they’re dealing with. If we can get this done it would be really great for our community.”

Weir said things are off to a good start on the “front-nine” of the campaign.

“Our golf tournament for the Chip-In Challenge is already sold out, the response online has been good but we’d love if it was even better, so that’s starting to gain some momentum, and the community has really gotten behind it, and Chris Hadfield donated $10,000 from his Walk of Fame induction, so we thank Chris for that.”

Weir has supported youth causes throughout his golf career, including the Children’s Miracle Network and the Sunshine Foundation through many celebrity golf events at Huron Oaks in Bright’s Grove.

The eight-time PGA Tour winner and 2003 Masters Champion said the Chip-In Challenge is just a natural extension of his work with kids.

“It fits within the mandate of my foundation by helping children and children’s causes, so yeah, it just fits in within our whole mission statement of our foundation,” he said. “I’m still there, my families still there, it’s where I grew up, so whatever I can do to help my hometown I definitely want to do that.”

Donations are being accepted online at mikeweir.com.