She was the winner but Sandra McDonald thought everyone else was just as deserving.
The passionate mental health campaigner and founder of Beautiful Minds was named the Sydney South-West/Macarthur Volunteer of the Year last week.
“There was a room full of people and they were all highly deserving,” the Long Point resident said.
“But they gave it to me and that was very humbling.”
Mrs McDonald was honoured for her work with the charity, which has raised funds for the acute mental health units in Campbelltown through various fundraisers and campaigns.
The other winners at the volunteer ceremony were Stephen Cantrill (adult volunteer), Macarthur Centre for Sustainable Living (team volunteer), and Andrew Lockett and Zachary Moore (student volunteers).
Mrs McDonald wanted to use her win to broaden the conversation about mental health and encourage the community to reconsider their thoughts of acute mental health units.
“I have a son with schizophrenia and that’s where I get my passion,” she said.
“The state of the acute mental health units in Campbelltown, and in NSW, is unacceptable – the people inside are traumatised and unwell and they need some beauty during their stay.
“I would challenge everyone to visit one of Campbelltown’s three acute mental health units and see what it’s like in there.
“It will help break down that stigma and make the people inside feel valued.”
Mrs McDonald’s tireless work with Beautiful Minds raises money to beautify the mental health units in the region.
Her latest aim is to bring some life to the youth unit – Birunji – which currently has only a few chairs in its outdoor space.
She hopes to bring music, games and sporting equipment to help those inside “release their energy”.
“What we’re doing is an innovation,” Mrs McDonald said. “But I can’t do it all – we need others to take up that role too. What a difference it will make to people with mental health issues, to know that they are valued, respected and equal.”