“Sometimes I sit at my desk with tears in my eyes because I hear these amazing stories of why people are fundraising for us,” Keshlar says.
She is the MHF’s Events and Fundraising Co-ordinator and top of her mind at the moment is the ASB Auckland Marathon on 30 October, 2016.
“We’ve currently got a team of 100 people running in that, with space for more Golden Runners – people who pledge to raise a minimum of $1,000.”
For this and the other fundraising marathon events – Auckland’s Round the Bays next March and the Rotorua Marathon in May – Keshlar is swift to point out there’s a role for everyone. You don’t have to run the full marathon. You don’t even have to run.
“Lots of people walk it just to motivate themselves and start to get healthy. We know that physical activity is good for mental wellbeing,” she says.
“We also love to have family and friends come down to support their runners. At the end of the race we have a tent where we put on a barbecue for participants and their supporters.”
Not everyone wants to raise funds through big sporting events. Part of Keshlar’s job is to help others who want to create a fundraising event for the MHF, be it big or small.
“Some people say, ‘Oh but I can’t raise much money’ and I try to explain to them that they’re also raising awareness about mental health and that’s really important too.”
Fundraisers tend to be people who have lost a loved one to suicide, people who have their own mental health issues, or those who have family members or friends who experience mental illness.
“I think we attract people too who want to take on physical challenges because being active and getting outside, in nature, is what helps support their mental health.”
“Every day I’m watching people do things to make themselves feel better, or in memory of people and I think to myself, ‘I’d love to do something like that’,” Keshlar says.
“I’ve always been the cheerer, the person saying, ‘You can do it’, and because I’m organising I can’t participate.”
But that will change for Keshlar next September when she takes part in the MHF’s Kilimanjaro Challenge led by Mal Law, the endurance athlete whose Big 50 Challenge last year raised more than half a million dollars for the MHF.
It took Keshlar several weeks to make the decision. “I experience depression and anxiety myself and I’m overweight. I also had to raise the money,” she says.
However, motivated by Mal, Keshlar and her husband Richard (who will join her on the Kilimanjaro Challenge) have already raised most of the money required. Her fitness programme is well underway too with a weight loss of 18kg over the past year.
Deciding to participate has also helped with her job. “I think I go the extra mile now because I know what our fundraisers are going through. My advice is absolutely genuine because I am doing it myself.”
If you are interested in participating in an event or challenge for the Mental Health Foundation, give Keshlar a call on 09 623 4810 ext 862 or email firstname.lastname@example.org