Sold-out breakfast provides major boost for Read The Play programs

August 8, 2023 BY

L-R: Breakfast panellists Will Balme, Claudia Gunjaca, Neil Balme and Sarah Elsworthy with MC and Cats legend Cameron Ling. Photos: MICHAEL CHAMBERS

ALMOST 300 attendees gathered at GMHBA Stadium last Friday (August 4) for local youth mental health service Read The Play’s annual Fundraising Breakfast.

The event was led by Read The Play general manager Michelle Gerdtz and Geelong Cats legend and premiership player Cameron Ling providing his services as Master of Ceremonies.

VFL/AFL figure and football mastermind Neil Balme alongside his son and documentary filmmaker Will Balme, headlined a panel of speakers, in addition to Read The Play ambassadors Geelong United Supercat Sarah Elsworthy and Geelong Cat Claudia Gunjaca.Read The Play general manager Michelle Gerdtz said she was amazed at the generosity and support from the 267 people that attended the breakfast on Friday morning.

The breakfast was sold-out with 268 guests in attendance.

“We have raised more than $20,000, a phenomenal effort from everyone,” Ms Gerdtz said.

“There is nothing better than when the Geelong community comes together for a good cause, and we are the lucky ones to be on the receiving end.

“The breakfast was the perfect way to begin Read the Play round.

Cameron Ling (left) and Read The Play general manager Michelle Gerdtz (right) with a very happy State Member for Bellarine Alison Marchant, who was the proud recipient of a signed 2022 Geelong Cats guernsey.

“All the AFL Barwon Colac & District FNL and Geelong & District FNL Clubs were fantastic in their support of the round, and we’ve received so many social media posts, emails and texts showing u/15 netball and u/16 football teams in their Sole Mates socks and RTP Medal recipients, those who exemplified the values of Courage, Respect and Teamwork.

“Thank you to our amazing football and netball community for their support all year by booking mental health education sessions at the club, purchasing socks and celebrating Read the Play round.

“Mental health really is a team sport.”

Following a comprehensive discussion in front of a sold-out number of 267 guests about the role local clubs and services such as Read The Play can play in assisting youth mental health, several items were sold off in a live auction-style event led by Buxton Highton Real Estate’s Ben Riddle.

Items included a $1,000 tab at 13th Beach Golf Club in Barwon Heads, a signed premiership Geelong Cats guernsey from 2022, and a signed helmet from V8 Supercars motor racing athlete Cameron Waters.

Neil Balme and son William (left) address the crowd about how far mental health communication has progressed over the years.

The morning was concluded with a screening of Will Balme’s documentary Letters to Anxiety.Ms Gerdtz confirmed fundraising totals were still being finalised to conclude Read The Play Round (August 4-6), but stated money raised from the Fundraising Breakfast was safely in excess of $20,000.

Head to www.readtheplay.org.au to find out how you can contribute to Read The Play.