Community Fundraising – Ryan Gatgens Golf Day
In 2021, Daniel Driscol and some mates decided to have a Golf Day in memory of their friend Ryan Gatgens, who tragically died in 2019. This swelled to a Fundraising event that attracted 240 golfers, many incredible local sponsors and was supported by the Bellarine community to the tune of a $55,000 donation to Hope Bereavement Care.
Well, they are back again in 2022, again raising money for Hope Bereavement Care. Both Daniel and Libby, Ryan’s mother spoke to Danny Lannen not long after the first event and we wanted to share those stories with you again. (see below)
The 2022 Ryan Gatgens annual memorial Golf Day will be held on the 13th March 2022 at the Clifton Springs Golf Club. If you want to get on board, you can still sponsor the event or help out on the day, just contact via the Facebook link. So please come down and join in on the day: whether in memory of Ryan, to support Ryan’s family, to support Daniel or the Bellarine Community, or just to play golf or have some fun, you will make such a difference.
Daniel Driscoll figured that a charity golf day in the name of his late mate Ryan Gatgens might get 40 or 50 pals together for a hit and a good cause.
Then he started organising, and it became apparent how much the name in the game meant to people.
“The idea just kept getting bigger and bigger,” Daniel said.
“Sponsors got on board, all local guys and businesses and they all approached me, I didn’t have to approach them.
“For a while it seemed like we got a different new sponsor a day, and even as it got closer people were offering to donate for raffles and auctions.
“Ryan was so well known and liked.”
The Ryan Gatgens Memorial became a family day juggernaut, ultimately drawing 800 or so people together in his name at Clifton Springs Golf Club on a sunny Labour Day long weekend Sunday in 2021.
A field of 260 hit off in the nine-hole ambrose event. There were jumping castles and a petting zoo for the kids, food trucks for all to enjoy, and in tribute and remembrance the crowd raised $55,000 for Geelong’s Hope Bereavement Care – the charity chosen by Ryan’s parents Libby and Shane and partner Tegan.
“When I first came up with the idea, I asked Ryan’s family and partner Tegan if they would mind me doing it, and where they would like the money to go,” Daniel said.
“They all chose Hope because of how much of a help Hope was to them and still is.”
The organisation has provided immeasurable counselling support in the years since Ryan’s suicide in 2019.
“A lot of funding in mental health goes to the bigger organisations, Hope doesn’t get that kind of support,” Daniel said.
Daniel and Ryan were tight mates for many years and regularly played social golf together with a few others after knock-off on a Friday, or on a Sunday.
“It wasn’t really about the golf for him, it was about the socialising,” Daniel said.
“He was all about his mates, loved catching up and having a laugh.
“He was a really good mate, do absolutely anything for you.”
A social golf day in Ryan’s name seemed like a good fit and in the end more than 50 sponsors were on board.
Ryan’s good mate, and Daniel’s boss, Brenton Flynn of Eco Choice Solar joined AWM Electrical Moolap in donating a fully installed rooftop solar system which sold for $7000. Golfing buddy Ben Duff, of Duff’s Jewellers, donated watches worth a couple of thousand dollars.
One of Ryan’s closest mates Andrew White donated a year worth of mowing by his Jim’s Mowing franchise.
Golf club operations manager Michael Platt provided immeasurable support and advice. The list went on and on.
“I was spending a few hours every night organising things,” Daniel said.
“Then about a month before the day my boss’s wife Emma could see that it was all starting to get a bit much for me and ended up sitting down with me and my partner Kristy.
“We mapped it all out, she was a massive help. She and Kristy took a heap of work off me so I could concentrate on the golf side of things.”
Now a formal committee is in place organising next year’s memorial, all as a labour of love and with the connection to Hope ongoing.
Daniel reckons Ryan would wonder what all the fuss is about.
His said his mate’s death came as an inconsolable surprise.
“He was always so open with his battles. He wouldn’t try and hide it. He would come around and say if he was struggling, or up and down.
“I know he was getting frustrated because they couldn’t really work out what was going on, but he was always open to talk.
“No-one knew anything was going to happen, we thought because he was open and talking he would be able to get through, but I guess you never know.”
Libby, Ryan’s mum’s story
LIBBY Gatgens knows that the particular pain left by her son Ryan’s suicide will never leave her.
Questions will never be answered, what-ifs never resolved.
“You’ve joined that club where loss is always there,” she says.
“It just sits in your gut, and while you kind of move through things it still sits in your gut. It’s that ache, it’s that pang that gets you.
“It doesn’t mean that you can’t get on, but it’s just always there.”
Learning about it is her key to living with it, and Geelong’s Hope Bereavement Care is helping to light the way.
Ryan was one day shy of his 33rd birthday when he died in August 2019. His loss left Libby and husband Shane, his three siblings, his partner and the loving wider family of his community heartbroken and bereft.
He was talented, popular, always involved and active in life, and successfully operating his own building business.
He was giving back as under-19s coach at his beloved Drysdale Football Club, where his legend was enshrined as a two-time senior premiership defender.
He was both the life of the party and the sensitive soul, had rock-solid networks of lifelong mates and was loyal to a fault.
But no amount of connection or support could prevent mental illness from obscuring all that he had to live for.
Libby estimates that his trouble cascaded from sleep deprivation and insomnia during a few years shift working in Western Australia. Ryan developed high-level anxiety, depression, psychosis.
He repeatedly sought treatment but found navigating the mental health system challenging. He self-medicated with alcohol.
“He had been unwell and had mental health issues diagnosed probably in the January or February of 2019,” Libby said.
“His decline was very quick when I look at it.”
Libby says she doesn’t ask why Ryan chose the course that he did.
“Never have I got angry at him,” she says.
“But when you lose someone like that, you need to make sense of it.”
She is unsure how a Hope brochure came to capture the attention of Shane and herself, but it was early in their bereavement. They made contact, sought counselling and have remained involved since, skilfully supported by counsellor Christine Rawson.
Shane has regularly attended men’s and mixed counselling groups. Libby is in the care of her own counsellor but also joins Hope sessions and has derived strength and focus from Hope-recommended reading and a two-day course which focused on being able to share lived experiences.
“You don’t know what you don’t know until you are in those circumstances,” Libby says.
“Hope specialises in dealing with this type of grief, so you’re not going to a counsellor who you really need to build a relationship with before you talk about this type of stuff.
“They know why you’re there and they ask the right questions, and they allow you to move in the direction you need to around your grief.
“They are very skilled with their questions at moving you through to where you possibly can’t ever see that you need to be, or think that you are ever going to reach.”
Along with making progress in their own ways, Libby and Shane have found profound reward in helping to support others navigating their grief at Hope sessions.
Sharing brutal learnings and perspectives can help, both ways.
The day after Ryan died was his birthday and Libby and Shane went down to the footy club – just to be there, and because all of Ryan’s friends wanted to see them, to share with them.
“There were probably 500 people there and all the players came in to do a mental health check,” Libby said.
“I remember thinking to myself at that time that Ryan didn’t just belong to us, he actually belonged to a community. This wasn’t just our tragedy, it was greater than that – that ripple effect that you have.
“As a parent you try and look after your own family, your children and their partners and that kind of central relationship system that Ryan had, but it was actually far wider than that. The impact was quite significant.”
Processing that realisation and feeling the widespread love for her son has become part of their journey, and they have witnessed some extraordinary deeds carried out in his memory – convening of events raising tens of thousands of dollars for Hope Bereavement Care.
Ryan’s best friends just doing their thing, raising money, and also wrapping their arms around each other.
Libby believes that she and Shane will never be through their loss.
They’ve joined that club, but her precious consolations include knowing that Ryan was so loved as a part of his community, and that he experienced a radiant and extraordinary life, and lived how he wanted to live.
“I’ve had to say these things to myself. You know it’s not the quantity of the life, it’s the quality of the life,” she says.
“So I talk myself into being positive in that way, it’s how I have to think, but I think that Hope helps you to do that.”