This Mental Health Week, Steffler Foundation continues to make strides
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
This Mental Health Week, May 6-12, Huron County residents have plenty of reasons to be encouraged, as the newly-formed Tanner Steffler Foundation continues to expand its reach.
This is the 68th year that Canada has marked Mental Health Week in the House of Commons and beyond. Locally, a number of events were being held, including a run by local radio personality Phil Main around the community, raising not only money, but awareness of mental health in Huron County.
The Tanner Steffler Foundation is just entering its second year and co-founder John Steffler says there are plenty of exciting things happening with the foundation and in mental health awareness in Huron County.
John and his wife Heather founded the Tanner Steffler Foundation in the name of their son, who passed away in 2017. Tanner was a bright young man who was a lover of music and with dreams of a career, but his struggle with his mental health led him down a path of addiction.
In the months following Tanner’s death, John and Heather, both grieving the loss of their son, turned their attention and efforts towards the creation of the foundation in the hope of improving access to mental health resources in Huron County.
The Stefflers’ journey dates back to the fall of 2017, when they first spoke to Huron County Council, seeking funding to help get the foundation off the ground.
Though their request was turned down, the Stefflers went full steam ahead and began fundraising. Many of those involved with the 2017 International Plowing Match pledged their portion of the match proceeds to the foundation and things began to move with the foundation.
The foundation hopes to focus on the mental health of county residents between the ages of 12 and 24. In an interview with The Citizen, John said that at the core of what he and Heather are trying to do with the foundation is that they don’t want anyone to have to go through what they did and they didn’t want anyone else to hit the roadblocks and closed doors Tanner did in his search for treatment.
While much of what the foundation is already doing is aimed at raising awareness and erasing the stigma attached to mental health, the organization also hopes to raise $1 million in its first five years to build a resource centre in Huron County.
So far, the foundation has raised over $200,000 and reinvested over $100,000 of that back into the community. The foundation has held several events and established partnerships with existing county bodies to improve the mental health landscape here, including local school boards, emergency services professionals and the Huron County Health Unit.
In its first year, not only did the Tanner Steffler Foundation work to make itself a more visible name in the community, but it also hosted a number of events, like bringing mental health advocate Michael Landsberg first to Exeter and Blyth and then to Mitchell for a series of lectures, as well as the Six String Music Festival, held for the first time in Seaforth last year.
In an interview with The Citizen, John said that while there are mental health services available in Huron County, they are not well-connected, which can affect how effective they are for residents who are in crisis.
He also said that many of the services are very specific, which can be detrimental when it comes to mental health and its sprawling nature.
John says that Heather has described the family’s journey as walking alone through a snowstorm. The goal of the foundation is to reach out and offer a helping hand and solutions through the whiteout.
Later this year, the foundation plans to officially launch its capital campaign, which will focus on the creation of the resource centre, a big step in the foundation’s journey to help children who struggle with mental health issues in Huron County.
As of right now, the foundation is working out of an office with some board room space at the Huron community Family Health Team building in Seaforth, but is looking ahead to the move once the new centre is built, all with the mandate set out by John and Heather in those early days after their son’s death: “Tanner Steffler Foundation will create a culture of change in mental health, addiction and wellness services for youth and their families in Huron County.”
For more information on the Tanner Steffler Foundation, visit tannerstefflerfoundation.com