Jack is the newest member of our team. When I met him he was a volunteer at Yakkalla, which is a community center for people recovering from mental illness. He seemed a fit and healthy 21 year old but I discovered it hadn’t always been like that.
His father had passed away when Jack was 17. His father and he had been close, they did so many things together, including long distance cycling, and the death plunged him into a depression thinking what was the use of doing anything when you end up dying anyway. A very common thought among people who are depressed.
After some time in this depressed state he decided that staying like that would not get him where he wanted to be so he enrolled in a scaffolding course and was enjoying it very much.
It was on his way to college that he was injured in a motorcycle accident that put in a coma for two days. He came out of the coma with double vision. He was told he had a brain injury and that the double vision may or may not fix itself.
Not only that but he found he was unable to walk and had lost many of the life skills he had acquired before the accident. He was also told that he would never ride a bicycle again.
During his recovery he had a few realizations about his life and life in general that “cured” his previously existing anxiety and depression. He made up his mind that he would learn to walk again and recover as soon as possible and get back to his scaffolding course.
Kyle, a friend from childhood came to visit him while in hospital and helped him with his recovery by leaving him with a guitar so he could get the mind functioning again.
His room mates, Gary and Barry woke him up regularly at 5:30 am to check that he was still alive. He had found the nights to be very long and the days boring but became very grateful to them because it instilled some discipline.
Tragically his childhood friend Kyle ended his own life after a relationship breakup. He had been dealing with other issues at the time and the relationship breakup was the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back.’ Jack, already in a fragile state, was shaken very badly, especially because Kyle had been such a great friend to him.
Jack did not let the grief get him down completely. Instead, he did something very positive. Before covid became a nationwide problem he organized a fundraiser to help such people suffering depression and brain damage.
The fundraiser took place in the form of a bicycle ride from Jenny Dixon Reserve on NSW Central Coast, near where the ashes of his friend Kyle had been scattered, and Brisbane in Queensland. A daunting task indeed, a distance of over 520 miles or 856 kms.
Setting out around 10:30am Jack’s first leg was to Bellhaven Caravan Park at Heatherbrae, a distance of 69 kms where he stopped for the night. The whole trip from Jenny Dixon Reserve to Brisbane took 16 days including overnight stops and breaks for meals. Arrived in Brisbane 28th April 2020 at 8:41pm.
He raised $5000 as a result of this ride. He intends to make this an annual event, and go to all the places that his late friend Kyle would like to have seen.
Jack has been an inspiration to us all. He could have easily given up after his accident and the death of his friend soon after. He continues his volunteer work at the Mental Health Recovery Center where he is appreciated by all who come in contact with him;a shining example of tragedy turned into triumph!