If you live in the area and you don’t know Judy Brunton personally, you’ve likely heard about the work she is doing as an ambassador for youth mental health. Maybe you’ve caught a glimpse of her driving around town in her vibrantly decorated Chevy Cruise with the license plate that reads “End Stigma”, or perhaps you’ve been greeted with her endearing smile after participating in or donating to one of her myriad fundraising efforts.
This marks Brunton’s sixth year participating in the Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) Mental Health in Motion (previously known as Ride Don’t Hide). The ride, run or walk event held in Newmarket is aimed at promoting mental health awareness and raising funds for local service, MOBYSS (Mobile York South Simcoe) — a mobile youth walk-in clinic providing confidential healthcare needs in a safe, non-judgmental environment.
You do not need an OHIP card or parental permission to receive assistance from MOBYSS. In fact, patients can keep their identity anonymous, and use the mobile clinic as many times as they choose to. While the services aren’t meant to replace those of a psychiatrist or psychologist, they help mitigate the six-month waiting period — and the funds — required for receiving such treatment. “A number of youth have gone on that bus in acute suicide state and because of the bus they’re still with us,” explains Brunton. Over the last four years on the road, the bus has served 17,000 youth. This is the impact that drives Brunton every day.
Brunton is no stranger to loss. Her cousin, Geoff, passed away from mental illness at a young age. Just last year, she lost her brother, Dave, who was only 47 years old. Brunton is also inspired by her sister, Laurie, who was diagnosed with her first mental illness as a teenager. “The money won’t help them – but I do this for them,” Brunton writes on her CMHA fundraising page.
Over the last four years, Brunton has raised over $60,000 for CMHA. This year, her fundraising goal is an impressive $25,000. “It’s my passion to raise awareness – even now, the stigma is still huge,” Brunton says. “And I raise as many funds as I can for CMHA – it’s what I love to do.”
Mackenzie Moyer, Resource Development and Communications Coordinator at CMHA, works closely with Brunton, providing any support she needs from the organization. “Every year, Judy consistently goes above and beyond,” Moyer says. “She’s our top fundraiser by a landslide at our signature annual event, Mental Health in Motion. The funds she raises help keep MOBYSS on the road; she’s literally saving lives.”
Many people think Judy’s fundraising and volunteering efforts are her chief focus, but she is also the mother of two sons, Charles and Jacob, and she commutes from Aurora to Scarborough Monday to Friday to work a full-time job.
“Judy has created a community around this fundraising, where everyone is welcomed and everyone can feel that passion and feed off of one another,” says Moyer. “It’s amazing to be involved in the Mental Health In Motion event – the energy is incredible. And the more people that join in, the wider we grow the community, so all of York Region becomes a safe space where people better understand mental illness and that stigma is reduced.”
Her efforts to raise awareness have given Brunton a platform by which she continues to offer support and provide an ear to anyone who needs it. She says people often come up to her or message her online to share what they’re going through, and she is noticing people are starting to feel more comfortable speaking out. “I have the ability to help people, so therefore I do it,” she says. “At this point, I don’t suffer from any mental illnesses, which I’m very grateful for, but I love to help people who do.”
Brunton is quick to point out that she wouldn’t have the fundraising success she’s had if it weren’t for the community she lives in. “I love how supportive my community is – whether they are supporting financially or just spreading the word so other people can learn about what we’re doing,” she says. “And I love when they come out to my events and cheer me on. It makes me feel like I can do almost anything I put my mind to.”
If you want to support Brunton’s cause, you can make a donation at cmhainmotion.ca/judybruntonrocks