Skip to content

Are you in a crisis? Call or text 988 or text TALK to 741741

¿Estás en una crisis? Llama o envía un mensaje de texto al 988 o envía un mensaje de texto con AYUDA al 741741

Finding Hope and Healing on the Links: Golfing to Support Suicide Prevention

April 28, 2023 – 4 min read

By Evan Canham

Evan Canham with his girlfriend Kelsey at the 2022 Golf for Hope event.

Nearly 14 years ago, my family’s life changed forever. On October 1 of 2009, my brother Sean died by suicide. He was 24 years old at the time, and I was only 21. In the weeks, months, and years that followed, each of us processed and worked through that horrible loss in our own ways. While my dad Dave almost immediately started volunteering with The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), I found it difficult to jump in and get involved so quickly. Without realizing it at the time, I was having difficulty understanding my brother's struggles with mental health, and how his suicide had affected my own mental wellbeing. Instead, I tried to quickly move on with my life, attempting to convince myself and others that my brother and I hadn't been that close, and that his death hadn't affected me much. But the truth is that I have struggled for over a decade to come to terms with my brother’s death, and find meaning and purpose through the pain and difficulty of surviving a suicide loss.

In early 2019, my dad came to me with an idea. A golf course near his house in Scottsdale, Arizona, was hosting a monthly Glow-in-the-Dark Golf night. He suggested using the event as a way to raise awareness and funds for AFSP's suicide prevention efforts, including research, education programs, advocacy, and support for survivors of suicide loss. This idea struck a chord with me, since I had played golf competitively, from age 12 all the way through high school. Sean was more interested in hockey growing up, having played for several years, including on our high school team. But I still had fond childhood memories of the two of us hitting golf balls at the range, and walking Lochmere Golf Club together in Cary, North Carolina, where we lived as kids before moving to Arizona.

I took my dad's suggestion to heart. We formed a planning committee of AFSP staff and volunteers, and in May of 2019, we held our very first Glow-in-the-Dark Golf tournament, Golf for Hope, at the Continental Golf Course in Scottsdale. We were a small but mighty group of about 25 golfers, and we ended up raising about $3,000 for AFSP.

Ever since that first event, Golf for Hope has seen incredible growth. Each year we double our net proceeds, and in 2022, we sold out the course with 120 players, multiple key sponsors, 18-hole sponsorships, and several generous donations from supporters who were unable to attend but still wanted to help the cause. This year's tournament will take place on May 6, and we're hopeful that we can raise $25,000 for suicide prevention, which would mean that Golf for Hope will have raised over $50,000 for AFSP Arizona since its first event in 2019.

Golf for Hope has been an opportunity for me to support an amazing cause, while having some fun doing it! It has been so rewarding to see this event grow, and seeing the same folks coming back year after year for a night of golf, fun, and laughter. Each year, we decorate golf carts with glowsticks and strobe lights, blast music, and chase glow-in-the-dark golf balls through the Scottsdale night, all while helping to fight suicide in Arizona. One of my favorite parts of the event is getting to meet new people every year who have come out for the first time, and at the end of the event tell us, “See you next year!” We’ve created a fun, unique little family that gets together each May to celebrate life while remembering those we’ve lost, and is always one of the highlights of my year!

The event owes a huge shoutout to its sponsors and partners, including evolvedMD, who is partnering with us as our presenting sponsor for the third year in a row! In addition to offering financial sponsorship, evolvedMD has provided several volunteers who help our event run smoothly and effectively. We’ve also secured ongoing partnerships and incredible contributions from organizations like Lavidge, Tommy Bahama, the Bruce Andersen Charitable Fund, Christopher Dorris, and more than a dozen other local vendors in the Phoenix area for raffle prizes, donations, and other sponsorship opportunities.

If you are interested in learning more about Golf for Hope, please visit this link to our website where we have information on registration, sponsorships, and donation opportunities. We hope to see you out on the links on May 6 to support an amazing cause!

The above is just one example of the many local AFSP awareness and fundraising events going on in communities across the country. Find out about upcoming events in your area here.

If you or a loved one is in crisis, please call or text 988 for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741 to talk to someone who can help. To learn more about suicide and resources available to survivors of suicide loss, such as the Healing Conversations program, click here.