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Ringing it up for mental health

Carterton’s Mike Dawes, organiser of the charity fight night ‘IT Heavy Hitters’. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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A Carterton man who lost his mentor to suicide has inspired chief executives and IT geeks to face off in a charity boxing match to help raise awareness for mental health.

Carterton IT professional Mike Dawes is the man behind the fight night ‘IT Heavy Hitters’ to be held in Wellington next month, which is raising funds for Key to Life – a charity fronted by Mike King which aims to change people’s perceptions towards mental health and suicide.

“We all have certain thoughts and issues but we need to talk about these things,” Mr Dawes said.

The annual event features both male and female IT professionals who train under professional coaches before facing off in a three-round boxing match lasting six minutes.

The idea started six years ago when Mr Dawes decided to take up boxing under the guidance of well-known Upper Hutt coach Doug McLay, while working as an IT consultant to the police.

His fitness regime resulted in him shedding almost 25kg and going on to claim his first win in the boxing ring.

Only a year later, he was shocked to learn his coach and mentor had taken his own life.

“As soon as you’ve had exposure to suicide, you find out there’s a whole lot more people who have been through the same thing,” he said.

The loss sparked him to use all he had learnt under Mr McLay’s guidance to try and raise awareness around suicide and mental health.

“I knew it was going to be a suicide and mental health cause and it kind of just evolved from there.”

The event, which is held in Wellington and now includes Auckland as well, has raised over $200,000 over the past three years.

Mr King said he was at the point of selling off all his belongings to fund his ‘I Am Hope’ tour and had nothing left to sell by the time Mr Dawes offered to raise money through his event.

“The bottom line is if it wasn’t for Mike Dawes, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing,” Mr King said.

Although he has a full-time job, Mr Dawes said he puts in weeks of work to help organise the event and had since become a board member for the charity’s trust.

“I do this because the trust needs money and it’s personal to me because my coach died.”

Mr Dawes was instrumental in setting up Carterton’s co-working space 3Mile, with his teammates from there eager to drive to Wellington to watch the event they call “the ultimate geek vs geek fight night”.

He said it was important for the fights to feature people working in the IT sector as the “pressure and stress” of the profession aligned with the cause, as well as forcing people who sit at a desk all day to get involved in fitness.

IT Heavy Hitters is an R18 event and will take place at the Wellington Indian Centre on Saturday, May 5, at 6.30pm. Tickets can be purchased at www.itheavyhitters.co.nz for $40, with all funds going to Key to Life.

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