Higher Causes: Kites4Causes and NEED2
By Adele Haft
Among Victoria’s most iconic sights is Clover Point Park with the Olympic Mountains across the sea and kites soaring overhead. Since June, we’ve been treated to a feast: Dare-devil stunt kites, Teddy bears floating beside clown fish; Luigi and Mario, beside Pokémon Pikachu. Trilobites, coloured like the Union Jack or the Wolverhampton Wanderers, antennae whipping the air. Poisonous dart frogs gliding serenely over witches on brooms. Disembodied legs kicking soccer balls. Kites fill so much of this sea-embraced, windswept park that we stand awestruck at their grace and whimsy.
We haven’t a clue that most of these kites belong to one man who devotes many hours of each weekend and the occasional weekday to bring out the child in us. And that he does so for charity.
Meet Martin Brackley, founder of Kites4Causes. Martin bought his first stunt kite as a 10-year-old in England, but then found other interests. Seven years ago, after immigrating to Canada, he saw another stunt kite on sale, took it to the beach, and discovered how peaceful kite flying can be. Kites became a passion again. Soon strangers began snapping pictures of his displays, and of their children, wide-eyed at seeing movie and videogame friends transformed into kites.
That’s when Martin realized that he could combine his joy with “helping others by flying kites”―the motto of Kites4Causes. As he puts it,
My passion for kite flying, and the enjoyment my friends and I get from creating kite displays, not only for ourselves, but also for the pleasure of locals and tourists, gave me an idea. What if on the days when my friends and I fly at Clover Point, we had a collection box for a local cause? Would locals and tourists donate a loonie, or a toonie to that cause?...That is where the idea for “Kites4Causes” came from.
Martin decided to promote local causes that are relevant and unfamiliar to most people. For the first summer of Kites4Causes (2019), he chose NEED2 Suicide Prevention, Education & Support. Founded in 1971, NEED—as it was named prior to 2010—operated a 24 hour phone line before expanding its services as NEED2. Based in British Columbia, NEED2 is committed “to reduce stigma and to break the silence.” As an educational assistant in a local elementary school and father of teenage daughters, Martin had witnessed, at a nearby high school, one of the many unforgettable classroom presentations that NEED2 educators offer―free of charge―to Grades 8-12 students and staff throughout the Greater Victoria school system (https://need2.ca).
Here is how NEED2 summarizes its mission:
NEED2 Suicide Prevention, Education & Support works every day to prevent deaths by suicide through our community programs and our online presence. We provide accessible emotional and crisis support by engaging the community and advancing the dialogue. NEED2 operates Youthspace.ca, an online crisis and emotional support chat and text network for Canadian youth up to 30 years; as well as Suicide Education and Awareness, Mindfulness for Middle School, and Support for Suicide Loss, three programs that serve the Greater Victoria area. Our vision is to create caring communities without suicide.
No cause could be more relevant. According to Michael Egilson, chairman of a panel of experts who reviewed rural youth suicides from 2013 to 2018, “70 per cent of serious mental health issues emerge before the age of 25..., [and] suicide is the leading cause of injury-related death among children and youth in B.C.” (Times Colonist 16 August 2019, A4). When asked which prevention methods are most effective, Egilson responded, “Programs aimed at children in schools and best practice guidelines for healthcare providers”―precisely the type of programs and resources provided by NEED2, even to those far from urban centres. Emma White of NEED2 adds, “Youthspace.ca/resources also has an extensive list of mental health resources that youth can access online at any time, if they need information about a specific topic or are seeking resources outside of Youthspace hours” (email to author, 26 August 2019).
For his first summer, Martin hoped to raise $1,000. At press time, Kites4Causes had collected twice that, with 100% of all donated money going to NEED2. To donate online or to find out more about NEED2, visit https://kites4causes.wixsite.com/kites4causes. (Please mention Kites4Causes when you make the donation.) You can also sign up to run for team “NEED2 Prevent Suicide” in the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon on 13 October 2019 (https://need2.ca/support-us/fundraise).
Stay tuned for Kites4Causes’s 2020 choice and another spectacular summer of kite displays!
Thanks not only to Martin for raising awareness and funds for NEED2, but also to his supporters: kite-flying daughters, Anaka and Rekha, and friend Kamaren (see “Kites4Causes YouTube”); and especially Ron Turlock for his help and wonderful kites that help make up the Kites4Causes displays.