Community & Business

19 March, 2023

Youth suicide in the spotlight

INSPIRED by the glamorous balls of the big screen, a group of young university students from Mareeba and Cairns have banded together to throw a Hollywood-esque charity ball and raise money for their Great Wheelbarrow Race team’s chosen charity.

By Rhys Thomas

Team members of the new Suicide Prevention Squad to race in the 20th anniversary of The Great Wheelbarrow Race this year
Team members of the new Suicide Prevention Squad to race in the 20th anniversary of The Great Wheelbarrow Race this year

Taking on the mantle Suicide Prevention Squad, five university students from Cairns and Mareeba have decided to tackle the world’s only wheelbarrow race and raise money for the Dr Edward Koch Foundation, a Cairns-based charity that mainly focuses on those at risk of, or affected by, suicide.

The foundation was established in 1995 and supports public health activities in North Queensland all in the name of suicide prevention.

The Youth Suicide Prevention Charity Ball is the team’s first major fundraiser and will be held on 1 April at the Hilton Hotel in Cairns. It will feature a full red-carpet entrance, professional photographer, ballroom dancing demonstrations, a three-course meal, guest speakers, raffles and much more.

The main organisers of the ball are Mareeba locals Kyrah Johnston and Georgia Santucci who plan to make the ball as glamorous as possible and not shy away from the seriousness of suicide prevention.

“The night is really about raising awareness and getting rid of the taboo surrounding suicide, I feel it is not properly understood especially in small communities,” Kyrah said.

“We want it to be really fancy because in Mareeba we don’t get many opportunities to dress up.

“We are super excited for the ball and we have got a lot of interest from people already.”

Many members of the wheelbarrow race team have been directly affected in some way by suicide – one of the team’s captains lost his childhood best friend to suicide just after they graduating from high school together.

“A few of our team members and one of our captains in particular, have had some pretty sad experiences with youth suicide,” Kyrah said.

“We really wanted to do a big fun-draiser and we were looking around the country for charities to donate to and the wheelbarrow race is a local event so why not donate to a local charity.

“A charity ball would have to be one of the most challenging but one of the more effective ways to fundraise on a large scale.”

To book your ticket for the ball, head to


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