The Donor: David Harris
The Gift: Founding CameronHelps
The Cause: Helping to prevent teen suicide
David Harris still has a difficult time talking about his son, Cameron, who committed suicide at the age of 19.
"It has been seven years and I still get choked up," Mr. Harris recalled from home in Toronto. "My life, and our whole family's life, was flipped upside down."
Mr. Harris spent months trying to cope, using running as one way of escaping the pain. During one long run he decided he had to something to help others. "I couldn't just sit back and not do anything," he said.
Together with a group of friends and his second wife, Yvonne, Mr. Harris created CameronHelps, a charity that raises awareness about teen suicide. The group works with young people, using running as a kind of therapy to reduce depression and improve mental health. It has also paired with Hamilton's McMaster University on a research project tied to physical activity and mental health.
Mr. Harris, who works for a construction company, speaks regularly at schools and hospitals about teen suicide. He also plans to run 19 Mississauga Marathons to honour Cameron and raise awareness about suicide among young people (so far, he has completed eight marathons).
CameronHelps also organizes an annual fundraising run on Father's Day. The event pulled in about $15,000 this year and has raised about $60,000 in total so far. Another run is planned for June 30.
"When I finally realized that my life as I knew it before Cameron's death was over, I was really starting a new life and my new life was really going to be about giving back," Mr. Harris said.
"I have said that if I could touch one kid and help that kid in some way so that he would not take his own life, then I could stop tomorrow," he said. "And I know we've done that. I know that if CameronHelps ended tomorrow, I'd be okay with that."