AS WITH so much else that is good in this world, the road to Friday's Proserpine Lions Rodeo for Suicide Prevention began with a terrible tragedy.
In November last year, the Whitsunday Bald Eagles ran a suicide awareness walk - A Mile in Their Shoes - as part of their yearly community project.
To promote the day, they recorded a version of the song, Walk a Mile in My Shoes. "The day we recorded the song, just having a bit of fun, a friend killed himself," A Mile in Their Shoes president Jack Lumby said. At the funeral, Mr Lumby met old friends he hadn't seen in years. "And they were emotional shells of their former beings," he said.
"They (suicides) scar our souls, take our spirit away.
"(The friends and relatives are) left carrying that burden with them and you can see it."
Several months later, another of Mr Lumby's friends' lives was tragically cut short.
Again, Mr Lumby found himself asking that question which only his friend could have answered: Why?
"We were mates," Mr Lumby said.
"I spent several cyclones with him when I got stuck at Shute and I couldn't get home.
"We used to sit on his veranda with a bottle of rum and watch the cyclone, then get back to Shute (Harbour) and keep an eye on it.
"My wife's out the other side. He'd always make sure that we could get in touch with my family.
"We solved all the problems of the world."
A Mile In Their Shoes, which started as an awareness afternoon, has in less than 10 months evolved into a not-for-profit organisation raising money to help prevent suicide in the Whitsunday region.
"We're making a stand as a little town to keep our mates and our mates' kids alive," Mr Lumby said.
"How can something be 10 times worse than our local road toll and it's hidden under the covers?
"It's not just us, it's the whole Mackay area."
The A Mile in Their Shoes Bullarama earlier this year drew thousands of people, as well as raising much-needed money for suicide awareness training.
The Bullarama, Mr Lumby said, was beyond the group's wildest dreams.
"We never thought we'd be able to do something as big as that." But they did, and the Central Rodeo Cowboys Association (CRCA) was so impressed they decided to bring their finals to the Whitsundays, starting this Friday.
The funds from the weekend's family-friendly rodeo will be returned to the community in the form of lifeline training.
Of the work that's been done so far, Mr Lumby said he believed at least five lives had been saved by having people with training in the right place at the right time.
As he helped CRCA's Dale Bougoure piece together the ring on Monday afternoon, Mr Lumby said he was "massively proud" of his community and the help they had received from local businesses.
For more information, visit: www.centralrodeo. com.au/finals_2015.htm
If you or someone you know has been affected by issues raised in this article, contact beyondblue on 1300 224 636.
READY TO RUMBLE
What: Proserpine Lions Rodeo for Suicide Prevention featuring the Central Rodeo Cowboys Association Finals.
Where: Corner of Shute Harbour Road and Galbraith Park Drive, Cannonvale.
When: Friday evening from 6pm. Saturday from 11am. Sunday's trophy presentation from 9am.
Tickets: Friday and Saturday night - Adults $15, Kids $10. Saturday Family Fun Day (11am - 4.30pm) Adults $15 and kids free.
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