Sunnyside skiers Andrew and Oscar Klose understand the sometimes-tragic consequences of depression and will use that to spur them on during the endurance Ski for Life event on Friday.
The pair will take part in the 450-kilometre water-skiing relay from Murray Bridge to Renmark, with their parents Sally and Chris Klose as roadies, to raise money for mental health programs for regional areas.
The brothers are part of a seven-member relay team aged 16 to 60 who have formed a strong bond over many years as part of the tight-knit Sunnyside shack community, on the east bank of the river near Murray Bridge.
“We do a lot of skiing with them and one of our group lost her brother to suicide so, for our team, it is personal,” Andrew said.
“The Murray is a very special place to us and we are passionate about the importance of the work done by Ski for Life.”
Named the Sunnysiders, the team has already raised $3600 and will receive additional backing from Andrew and Oscar’s boarding school, Rostrevor College, which will make a substantial contribution from a Shrove Tuesday fundraising event.
Ski for Life will receive donations from Rostrevor students in exchange for blue ribbons that will be handed out by Andrew and Oscar to be worn on the wrist in a display of solidarity and support for the ski team and its cause.
Ski for Life Incorporated, which aims to raise $50,000 from this year’s event, distributes grants of up to $5000 to groups and organisations that provide services or resources in the areas of mental health, well-being and suicide prevention.
It has a strong focus on the farming community, particularly those areas affected by drought and economic downturn.
“We had an individual target of $2000 and we’ve already well exceeded that, so we are getting some pretty amazing support,” Andrew said.
The pair has travelled from Adelaide to Murray Bridge most weekends in the past few months to train for the event.
They will ski 25km legs in rotation.
Andrew, 18, has been skiing for about six years, but Oscar, 16, took up the sport only a year ago.
Apart from the physical challenge, Oscar said he was keen to support such an important cause.
“It’s a subject that is quite close to us, so it feels like a good thing to do to raise money to help address the problem,” he said.
“We know of quite a few people who have experienced some form of depression, and there’s probably more of it than we realise.”
Andrew said as an all-boys’ school, Rostrevor placed a strong focus on male health with regular and open discussion about mental illness and the pressures facing young men generally.
The event, which has steadily grown in the past seven years, was the brainchild of former Burra farmer Bill Stockman, who battled depression as a teenager following a farm accident.
What began with two boats seven years ago has now expanded to 35 boats and 350 ski-relay participants.
The official relay is from Murray Bridge to Renmark, but the Sunnysiders will extend their effort from Lake Alexandrina to the NSW boarder in what they describe as the “over-achievers’ leg”.
Rostrevor College deputy principal Frank Ranaldo said he was proud of Andrew and Oscar as well as the student leaders who had backed the cause and coordinated college fundraising efforts.
“Providing a supportive and open approach to young men’s health is our highest priority as student well-being underpins everything else,” he said.