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Rotary honours Ginny and Kerry Dennehy

Paul Harris Fellow Awards recognize contribution to humanitarian and educational programs

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There are few who embody the Rotary motto of "Service Above Self" in the way that Ginny and Kerry Dennehy do.

Since losing both of their children — 17-year-old son Kelty to depression-related suicide in 2001 and 23-year-old daughter Riley to a heart attack eight years later — the Whistler couple has turned grief into legacy.

Since 2001, the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation has raised more than $7 million in support of mental health.

And on June 27, the Dennehys were awarded Paul Harris Fellow recognitions from the Rotary Club of Whistler.

Named after the Rotary's founder, it's considered one of the highest awards the organization can give.

"A Paul Harris symbolizes those that live by that ethic of service above self," said Rotary District Governor Lyn Stroshin in presenting the awards.

"These two are totally Rotarians at heart... I just think we are so blessed to have these two in our community."

While their foundation has raised millions, it's the personal connections made that are most rewarding, said Ginny.

"It's those conversations that we have, the phone calls with the father who's got a depressed son and this and that, how do we help them? That's what's the important thing — it's touching those people out there," she said.

"That's what Kerry and I feel very, very strongly about... my little motto is together we will make a difference."

While progress has been made in destigmatizing mental health issues, today's complex society with all of its added pressures means the work is never done, Kerry added.

"The competition on these kids is extraordinary, so it's a tough battle," he said.

"These kids are not committing suicide because they want to die, it's a cry for help. And when they cry out for help, we have to be there, and we have to be there together."

In accepting the awards, the Dennehys joined more than 1.6 million other Paul Harris Fellows worldwide, including Mother Teresa, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Prince Charles.

The recognition acknowledges individuals who contribute, or who have contributions made in their name, US$1,000 to The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, and is considered the Rotary's way of expressing its appreciation for those who have made substantial contributions to its humanitarian and educational programs.

The award is usually given to Rotary Club members for long and dedicated service — very few are given to those outside the club.

Other honourary Paul Harris Fellows in Whistler include Greg Diamond, Brenda Oakes, Joan Deeks and Erika Durlacher.

Head to www.thekeltyfoundation.org to learn more about the Dennehys' work or to make a donation.

For more on the Whistler Rotary head to www.whistler-rotary.org.

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