The Rams Do It For Daron

[M]embers of the Ryerson women’s hockey team sprint to center court. Cassie Sharp grabs a ball. She runs back to her side before getting ready to throw it at a member of the Ryerson basketball team.

The Ryerson athletes traded in their regular sports gear for dodgeballs to raise money for the Do It for Daron campaign (DIFD), which raises money and awareness for mental health. Ryerson did two events in the week of March 24, including a twitter campaign and dodgeball tournament.

Being a first-year student-athlete is not easy. You must adapt to a busy schedule. Something that makes the adjustment easier is knowing that you have a community around you willing to help and support.

Whether she was on crutches, on the ice or off of it, Sharp felt like she had a team she could turn to for support. When she brought an idea forward, the support grew even larger.

A defenceman for the Ryerson women’s hockey team, Sharp brought forward the idea for Ryerson’s DIFD campaign. She was a member of the Ottawa Senators women’s hockey team with Daron Richardson in 2010, the year Daron took her own life.

She played with Daron’s older sister, Morgan, and was coached by her father, Luke Richardson, the following year.

“When the tragedy occurred, it just became an immediate mission by everyone to always Do it For Daron, make a difference and raise awareness for mental health” Sharp said.

Many of the members of that 2010 team are at university, and when Sharp decided she was coming to Ryerson, she knew she wanted to bring DIFD with her.

“I mainly wanted to bring the awareness to my school so that everyone could at least join in on the conversation and not feel alone,” Sharp said. “I had met a few people that seemed to be struggling with mental health and knew it could easily make a difference for somebody – which is exactly what the DIFD charity wants.”

Sharp approached her captain, Nella Brodett, with the idea. “She took my small idea of some sort of fundraiser and turned it into something bigger,” Sharp said. “I can’t thank her enough.”

It’s just that type of Ryerson community that was expected when Sharp chose to come to Ryerson, and the support that the initiative received was even bigger. “I was absolutely flabbergasted by the amount of support it received,” Sharp said with a smile. “I remember looking at Twitter at 1 a.m. on March 25, and my feed was already filled with supportive tweets to raise awareness.”

The Twitter campaign was called #RamsTalk. Ryerson athletics agreed to donate five cents for every tweet, retweet and favourite that included the hashtag ‘RamsTalk’. It raised $2,250.85 through over 45,000 interactions.

Some big names that helped support the cause included TSN hockey insider, Bob McKenzie, Team Canada women’s hockey gold medalist, Hayley Wickenheiser, Patrick Burke of You Can Play and even several NHL players such as Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher and OHL star Connor McDavid. The hashtag was trending in several cities across Canada. According to the Trendsmap Canada account Ryerson Rams was trending in Canada as well.

The fundraising didn’t end there however, as later that week the Ryerson Rams athletes and staff gathered in the Coca Cola Court at the Mattamy Athletic Centre for a day of dodge ball. Each individual competitor donated $10 to the cause.

“The dodgeball tournament came along and not only was there a lot of money raised, but everyone seemed to have so much fun,” Sharp said.

In all the campaign raised a total of $3,250.85.

“DIFD charity is something that will always be very close to my heart, so I definitely plan to keep some sort of annual fundraiser going during my years at Ryerson,” Sharp said. “This awareness definitely needs to continue further than just this year. I’m hoping that the success will only continue.”