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Dennehys challenging Whistler to match $50K mental-health donation

Teaming up with Andy Szocs, money will go to WCSS mental-health services
Ginny, left, and Kerry Dennehy in 2013 on their cross-country bike ride to raise funds for youth mental health. The couple is teaming up with the Szocs Foundation to donate $50,000 for mental health programs at the Whistler Community Services Society. File photo

Ginny and Kerry Dennehy's support for mental health has touched thousands of lives around Canada and beyond through their tireless work at the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation, named in honour of their teenaged son, who tragically ended his life in 2001 after battling depression.

But as far-reaching as their impact has been, Whistler will always be home to the Dennehys.

"We feel very strongly about giving back because the community has done so much for us and our foundation," said Ginny. "There's so much that is needed in the community to help people who suffer with mental health."

In light of the COVID-19 crisis, coupled with the strain placed on the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS), which is dealing with an explosion in demand as well as the loss of its main funding source with the temporary closure of the Re-Use-It and Re-Build-It centres, the Dennehys have teamed up with the Szocs Foundation to donate $50,000 to the social-service provider.

"We just finished our big fundraiser last year with Barney Bentall at Buffalo Bills, and a year later, here we go with a different situation with this pandemic. We wanted to relate the two," explained Kerry. "We wanted to let people know that we're still alive and helping out in the mental-health field and giving back some of this money that they did coming to our event. This is what it's all about: turning it around."

The money, which the Dennehys are challenging Whistlerites to match, will go towards mental-health programs at WCSS.

"This is an amazing boost for the mental-health services we provide," wrote Lori Pyne, interim executive director of WCSS, in an email. "As most of the focus has been on supporting the vulnerable population with food in the last weeks, it is important to recognize that everyone is experiencing some altered form in their mental comfort. This money allows us to pivot quickly to the needs of the community and offer services that are needed immediately."

Pyne added that its one-on-one outreach services would continue along with its subsidized counselling assistance program. A new prenatal support group, as well as support groups for parents of toddler, school-aged and teenaged kids have also been re-launched alongside a program called "Quaranteenager" offered in partnership with the Whistler Youth Centre.

"While the Dennehy and Szocs foundations are encouraging everyone to be a part of the resilient recovery for our community, they are also helping to bring an awareness to the fact that 'it is OK to not be OK' and that Whistler Community Services Society is here to help," Pyne added.

Andy Szocs, a West Vancouver businessman who has been a passionate advocate for mental health in retirement through his foundation and partnership with, said the donation was one way to get ahead of "the big wave" of mental health issues caused by the pandemic.

"Honestly, I don't think it's been covered a whole bunch in the news and I think most people underestimate it," he said. "So this is my way of saying, 'Hey, let's get ahead of this as best we can because we're going to need resources.'"

Szocs said he's been inspired by the mental-health community's response to the crisis, and sees future opportunities for remote online care that have been emphasized during this time of self-isolation.

"What I see a trend in, and you're not seeing much of it yet, is virtual care with groups. In other words, you'll phone in," he explained. "Think about the efficiency we can do—and obviously the patient has to agree to this—with [online counselling sessions for] five or six people at a time rather than wait for an appointment that's three weeks away."

The Dennehys recognized the need for virtual resources in 2018 with the revamped Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre website, which features streamlined resources for youth, parents, caregivers, health professionals and school personnel.

An online therapy program called Kelty's Key—which connects youth virtually to trained psychologists—was also launched last year.

Learn more at

Donations to WCSS can be made online at, or by mailing a cheque to local P.O. box 900, postal code V0N 1B0.