Race Mel Breen in a wedding dress for Lifeline

Have you ever dreamt of racing the fastest woman in Australia, while wearing a wedding dress, with all proceeds going to charity? Well, how about now?

On Sunday 28 August, Lifeline Canberra will be participating in The Canberra Fair, a free entry event at Thoroughbred Park.

Previously known as the Canberra Wedding Fair, the event has expanded to incorporate some of the surrounding regions’ market leaders in weddings, events, travel, and lifestyle – a new look presented by Danielle Cleary Events.

Lifeline Canberra will have a stall running from 10am to 3pm, showcasing wedding dresses, gowns, veils, formal attire, all in brand-new condition, that were donated to the charity by Estelle Designs and Alessandra Ashley Fashion.

“We have hundreds!” exclaimed CEO of Lifeline Canberra, Carrie Leeson.

“Wedding gowns, mother of the bride gowns, bridesmaids’ dresses, flower girl dresses, matching accessories. Dresses will be priced as low as $10. Some may be in the hundreds, but essentially this is our Bookfair for bridal.”

Savvy shoppers can purchase hundreds of dollars’ worth of satin to wear or upcycle, with every dollar converted to lifesaving calls to Lifeline’s 13 11 14 crisis support line.

“We will do anything to do justice to this donation, and make sure these dresses find a good home, including striking a bargain,” smiled Carrie.  

The exuberant CEO said that while there are several stunning pieces in store, she will be leaving the best for other future brides.

At the stall (with wedding gowns on) will be Lifeline Canberra ambassadors, including dual Invictus Games gold medallist Ben Farinazzo, Canberra Cavalry mascot ‘Sarge’ Josh Williams, Paralympian Sarah Walsh, and fastest Australian woman at the 100m sprint, Melissa ‘Mel’ Breen.

Fairgoers are encouraged to slip into their purchased gowns. Then, when the clock strikes three, the inaugural Lifeline Bride Stride begins.

 “It’s a one-minute sprint in a straight line down Thoroughbred Park Racecourse in full wedding attire.

“We’re hoping businesses and individuals will sign up and stride with Lifeline for a fantastic cause,” said Carrie. “Those who register can fundraise in their friendship circles, workplaces, and communities to support them in their race.”

Along with Lifeline’s Winter Solstice Nude Charity Swim, the Bride Stride is one of many out-of-the-box ideas that aim to “nuance the conversation around mental illness”.

“It’s only through reducing stigma that we will see an increase in individuals reaching out for help,” said Carrie.

“What resonates with one person may not resonate with another. What we deal with is serious, but this is an uplifting way to speak about it. Often there are members of our community who have never, will never, struggle with mental illness, but these conversations need to happen anyway.”

“When mental illness strikes, you need to be ready to have this conversation anywhere and anytime.”

The beginning of the pandemic provoked an increase from 2,500 calls a day, to 3,500 daily calls to Lifeline. Moreover, the number of calls has continued to increase over the past six months.

“Nationally, we’ve seen the largest percentage of growth in demand for crisis support coming from Canberrans,” said Carrie. “There is a very clear indication that our community is seeking help.

“The primary reasons why people are calling are relationship breakdowns and isolation.”

She noted that this is in line with Australia as a whole. “It’s reflective of what’s happening in the broader community, reeling from Covid and isolation.

“However, we’ve seen an increase across the board, with calls pertaining to suicide, self-harm, and child safety, which is very concerning.

“At Lifeline, we’re focused on getting to every call, and being with an individual when they summon the courage to pick up the phone. We’re here 24/7.

“Outside of the crisis support service, we’re trying to rebuild community connection after it was damaged during the pandemic and reimagine what it looks like now.

“It’s become very clear throughout Covid that individuals do not have the skills to identify the signs of mental illness within themselves, or the knowledge of what to do next,” said Carrie.

“This is not a slight on the community; the situation we found ourselves in was unprecedented. We’re working on responding to the huge increase in demand for our education courses.

“In normalising mental illness in different settings, people will feel more comfortable in engaging with it, and individuals can reach out without fear of being judged.”

To register for Lifeline Bride Stride, donate, or become a Lifeline Canberra volunteer, visit lifelinecanberra.org.au

Event registration costs $26, the cost to answer a life changing call. All proceeds raised will go directly to local crisis support.

“Anyone at all can participate. Come down, have fun, and support.”

Browse hundreds of donated, brand-new gowns at Lifeline Canberra’s stall at Canberra Wedding Fair, Thoroughbred Park, Sunday 28 August 10am-3pm; Canberra Bride Stride at 3pm.

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