Photo of the Gitzel family walking on the USask campus
Gitzel family from left to right: Ty, Bailey, Bonnie and Tim

Mental health support enhanced on campus

Gitzel family donates $1 million to create mental health fund for USask students

If it wasn’t for mental health support available for students on the USask campus, Bri Giesbrecht isn’t sure she’d be alive to see a future as promising as it is today. 

 “When I was younger, I had no idea and thought I would never make it to 16. And now I’m 24 and I never thought I would see this day,” said Giesbrecht, a second-year psychology student. 

Because of the support she has received at the Student Wellness Centre on campus, Giesbrecht can confidently look in the mirror and imagine a bright future. 

Many more USask students will have increased access to mental health support because a family of four USask alumni made a pact to give back. All four members of the Gitzel family have graduated from USask, including Tim (BA’86, JD’90), Bonnie Lloyd Gitzel (BEd’87), son Ty (BComm’20) and daughter Bailey (BKin’23). 

The Gitzel family’s generous gift of $1 million to establish the Gitzel Family Fund for Mental Health as part of the Be What the World Needs Campaign will allow USask to better respond to current student need and ensure additional supports are available. 

“Mental health is just so important,” said Tim. “It’s an issue everywhere...so there was no hesitation, not even for a minute, that we would step up as a family.” 

The new fund will provide additional funding for counsellors, group therapy delivery, and peer-health programming to ensure that USask students are positioned to thrive with holistic support throughout their educational journey.  

The university has been a common thread through the family’s experiences and each are aware of students who have struggled during their academic journeys. 

The Gitzel’s generous gift will enable the student wellness team to prioritize greatest impact and respond to opportunities as they arise.  

USask president Peter Stoicheff said the Gitzel fund addresses an important need on campus and highlights the impact that donors have on the university and its students. 

“Mental health is such a critical component of students’ academic success,” said Stoicheff. “The Gitzel family’s generous commitment recognizes that importance and we are deeply grateful for their support today, as well as Tim’s involvement as a valued member of our campaign cabinet. His insight and expertise have been crucial as we set out on our journey to achieve the ambitious goals of this campaign.” 

Bonnie Lloyd Gitzel said she was overwhelmed by how so many students at the Student Wellness Centre are willing to give back by sharing their own struggles and reaching out to help others. 

“That’s what the Student Wellness Centre is all about. That’s what mental health and recovery is all about,” said Lloyd Gitzel. 

‘Very grateful’

Daly Haas is another USask student thrilled to hear about the Gitzel Family Fund for Mental Health. 

“It’s such a large donation. It means a lot knowing they care so much about students’ wellbeing, our mental health and physical health on campus,” said Haas, a trumpet player who just finished her second year towards a music degree. 

Haas believes in order for her and other students to reach their full potential, a strong mental health and support system is vital. 

“The things I learned through Peer Health and the Student Wellness Centre will definitely carry me through to my career because I hope to go into medicine. In the future as life gets more stressful and I take on greater opportunities, knowing how to handle stress and knowing about my health and my mental well-being is really important.” 

Gift will go a long way

Jocelyn Orb, the director of the Student Wellness Centre, is confident the Gitzel gift will go a long way to helping students. 

“The timing is wonderful. Since COVID, we have seen an increased demand for mental health support among the university students,” said Orb, who has been in her role since 2016. 

She added that the gift brings stability to the centre's mental health promotion work, which is an important way to ensure student success on this campus 

“We want to support them and we want to make sure that they are cared for during their time here at university because that is going to affect their academic success.” 

‘The best four years of my life’

Ty Gitzel said he hopes the funds can allow some students who have been struggling with mental health the chance to embrace their time on campus with the same level of fondness that he has now. 

“It’s meant friendships, it’s meant connections, it’s meant opportunities. It’s been the best four years of my life,” he said. “I think the people that I met will stay with me forever, the best friends I have.” 

Bailey (left) with mother, Bonnie
Bailey (left) with mother, Bonnie

Bailey echoed her brother’s sentiments about her time on campus. 

“The best things about it are the little things. It’s going to Murray library until 10 o’clock at night to study for your bio exam. It’s meeting your best friend during your dance team auditions for the university dance team. It’s about going to have a coffee at Louis’ Loft with your master’s adviser.” 

Those small moments contribute greatly to fond memories Bailey will hold dearly and she hopes other students will be able to have the same experiences and life-long memories. 

Ty says being able to help future students who have walked the same path as he did really put into focus what it means to give back. 

“I don’t think we could ever possibly repay the university for what it has provided us, but for us to be able to even give just a little to help the next generation of students means a lot to me.” 

For Bonnie and Tim, that generational experience on the USask campus is something that binds the family in many ways. 

“We have a really strong connection here and we really feel grateful to this university,” said Tim. “This is the place that really gave us our start … and we feel proud we were able to attend here.”

Together we will support and inspire students to succeed. We invite you to join by supporting current and future students' needs at USask.

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