Sales Executive Gareth Hughes raises $90k for Mates 4 MENtal Health
In 2018, Pickles Sales Executive Gareth Hughes tragically lost his cousin to suicide. While assisting his cousin’s family during this extremely challenging time, Gareth’s friends from the Como Jannali Junior Rugby League Football Club stepped in with a great deal of support. It was during this time that Gareth and his friend Matt Stubbs had an idea to start an initiative with the aim of uplifting the mental health of men in his community. Surrounded by friends who wanted to help, Gareth wanted all men to feel like they had access to support in times of crisis.
Their idea would go on to become an initiative that was promoted, supported, funded and shared by Australians across the country and beyond. Established in 2019 and named Mates 4 MENtal Health
, there were challenges along the way — such as the inability to run large-scale events due to Covid lockdowns — but Gareth and his team prevailed. Finally, Gareth’s goal of walking the Kokoda Trail in a move to raise further funds is coming to fruition on 25 June 2022.
What is Mates 4 MENtal Health?
Mates 4 MENtal Health is a charity initiative that Gareth launched in 2019. Gareth started raising much-needed funds for men’s mental health while grieving the loss of his cousin. He was supported in his darkest hours by his footy mates, and realised then that more needed to be done to bring the male community together — and to normalise the conversation about men’s mental health! They launched Mates 4 MENtal Health as a community initiative with the goal of raising funds for large-scale charities that support mental health, and the idea steamrolled throughout the tight knit Sutherland Shire community. Unsurprisingly, it was quickly supported by an array of local businesses, many of which donated funds or goods and services to the cause.
Over the past few years, Mates 4 MENtal Health has provided a platform for fundraising efforts through a variety of initiatives, such as raffles, events, and soon through a fundraiser walk along the Kokoda Trail. Transparency is important to Gareth, who shares details on how the funds are distributed through Gotcha4Life workshops run by Tomorrow Man
. Since 2019, over 20 workshops have been sponsored by Mates 4 MENtal Health. These events provide a safe space for men and boys to work on their mental fitness.
Gareth says: “The whole point of Mates 4 MENtal Health is to take the message to men in our community that it’s OK to not be OK all the time. And that you can find support everywhere around you…at footy, the workshed, the people around you.”
Who is involved?
The charity was launched in the Sutherland Shire and has since grown to have a presence across NSW thanks to Gareth’s ability to create and foster connections with other individuals and organisations. Most notably, Australian TV and radio personality and founder of Gotcha4Life, Gus Worland, has invested his time in the events run by Mates 4 MENtal Health. Gareth considers Gus to be a part of the Mates 4 MENtal Health family and greatly values the ongoing connection between the respective charities.
At the end of June 2022, Gareth, along with 20 friends of the Mates 4 MENtal Health initiative, will be embarking on a self-funded expedition along the Kokoda Trail. The fundraising idea, which Gareth credits to his friends Matt Stubbs and David Robson, has been years in the making.
When the charity kicked into gear the pandemic lockdowns of 2020/21 halted travel plans in its tracks. Alongside travel closures there were an array of setbacks, including Matt injuring himself, and then Gus acquiring an injury just weeks out from the trip. Gus, who had been planning on accompanying the group on the trail, is devastated to miss out on the team event due to needing a surgical operation.
The trek is finally set to go ahead beginning on Saturday 25 June. Following the same steps as the Australian Army in 1942, Gareth and his friends will walk over 100 kilometres of rough terrain over 8 days. The journey is expected to be physically and emotionally challenging, and Gareth has spent the last 2 years training with a heavy pack.
Gareth says: “The Kokoda Trail is often spoken about in relation to the physical challenge, but as in everyday life, the mental challenge is often the toughest quest. This trip will highlight the importance of building your mental fitness and learning it’s OK to ask for help.’”
When the Kokoda team set out to fundraise for the trip, their initial goal was to raise $25,000. They went on to raise more than triple that amount, with donations currently sitting close to $90,000. The team is very pleased that they have been able to raise close to six figures for a wonderful cause, and Gareth believes the trip will provide him a small amount of solace. Gareth’s cousin's 13-year-old son will be joining the trek.
How to get involved
Mates 4 MENtal Health are still accepting donations for the fundraiser. For more information or to donate to the cause, click here