Autumn Charity Drive 2019 – returning to roots… and routes.

Back to the beginning

The Drive Against Depression autumn charity drive for 2019 started from familiar territory – the Gembrook Bakery.

It was here that the very first Drive Against Depression started, back in early 2017.

Back then, it was a bloke (me) who was struggling. I had recently acquired my Renault Sport Clio 182 Cup and was revelling in how it brought a smile to my face. I wanted to get out there and share the one thing that seemed to content my mind – driving.

A very ad-hoc email went out to a small group of car-loving mates. From there, momentum commenced and we decided to chip in to mental health charities.

After a couple of these, Sarah said, ‘we could do this ourselves’. Thus the formal structure of Drive Against Depression and its ascension to full Deductible Gift Receipt and recognised mental health charity was born.

A lot has happened since. We’ve learned a lot, that’s for sure. We’ve forged great relationships, both professional and personal. And we are really excited to take the charity’s purpose to the next level with our Mental Wellness Network.

Sharing the story

Back to this day.

I felt the time was right for me to step forward and reveal in more detail my personal fight with mental health – a story that, upon reflection, goes back far further than when I actually started receiving proper help.

After Sarah’s wonderful introduction to the day, I was able to engage with our community in a raw, honest way. Seeing the nods of understanding was powerful, inspiring me to keep going. And judging by the conversations I had as a result, this chat really set the tone of the day: it moved beyond the cars.

Not that the cars were uninspiring… it’s just that I had the pick! Those who know me know my one car regret: selling my 105-series Alfa Romeo about eight years ago.

Thankfully, an old friend from the club, Marco, came to support us on the day… and he brought his stunning 1750 GTV along to boot.

I initially refused the driver’s seat – I was genuinely more interested in watching him enjoy his car, which has been part of his life for over 15 years. Additionally, the simple pleasure was having the opportunity to catch up on his life over the last few years since we last saw each other.

Life. Work. Family. Alfas. Clio 182s (Marco had one, too!). How exercise helps him, and how he has rediscovered karate via his son. With the gorgeous autumnal weather, the time alongside Marco passed by fluidly… it was just a pity I had left Sarah behind with our daughters and without her car keys (sorry to those following the Alfa and wondering where the heck we were going…). So mch for being in the lead car!

Driving on

I managed to jump behind the wheel from Yarra Junction to Noojee, and the Alfa reminded me of what I was missing; the sound of the twin cam, the tactile controls, the… bonnet detaching from its locks.

Lunch at the Nooj Pub was frenetic, however superstar Sare had booked an outdoor table for the 30-plus attendees. With Mitch pulling out his extensive camera bag and snapping some fantastically atmospheric shots, the group shared many laughs between the band’s sets, and the girls found a trampoline and a wide range of new baby sitters.

While the warm Noojee sun gently brought an inner glow, the group returned to their vehicles… though we could probably have stayed on until sunset. Convertible tops dropped and some departed for home, while others returned to Yarra Junction and moved on towards Coldstream and the final rendezvous point.

See you soon

As ever, we said goodbyes to friends old and new, and the ride home was full of emotion – of happiness, of achievement of purpose, of connection. The glow lasted through the evening, and even the normally-ratty-by-the-end-of-a-drive girls in the back seats seemed contented by this wonderful event.

Thanks to all who attended, and please continue to connect with each other.

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*Thanks must go to Mitchell Oke from Digital Fuel Productions for taking these shots throughout the day.

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