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Bridget shares her ‘miracle’ story at Red Shield Appeal launch in Brisbane


Bridget Shirley (second from left) shares her story on stage alongside her mother Melinda (left), Bill Hunter and Rebecca Livingston. Photos: Roger Phillips

BY SIMONE WORTHING

In a room of more than 500 people, you could hear the proverbial pin drop as a remarkable young woman, Bridget Shirley, shared her journey through anorexia, addiction, mental ill-health and homelessness at the Brisbane launch of the Red Shield Appeal on Friday 3 May.


Bridget, supported by her mum, Melinda Edwards, and Bill Hunter, leader of the Salvos God’s Sports Arena church, shared some of the darkest moments of her life and how the love of family and friends, connection, and God, her “higher power”, have brought her to a place of hope and a future.


“People talk about hitting rock bottom, but I’m one of those people that have to go to rock bottom and then find a basement and then find a closed-down railway and then the remains of an ancient civilisation before I might take one of the hands that’s at least been reaching out to me,” she shared. “I don’t do anything in half measures, that’s for sure.”


Bridget says she made the personal and life-changing decision to ask for help.

After a series of rehabilitation centres, psychiatric facilities and attempts to break the cycle, Bridget experienced yet another relapse in March 2022, ended up in hospital, and her family was called in to say their farewells. After pulling through that terrifying experience, Bridget made the personal and life-changing decision to ask for help.


She went through detox and graduated from the 12-week rehabilitation program at Moonyah – The Salvation Army’s Brisbane Recovery Services, and found acceptance, encouragement and an extended family at God’s Sports Arena. She is now 15 months sober, has completed qualifications in community services, and is looking forward to a hopeful and faith-filled future.


“A miracle happened, and this beautiful young woman is now back in my life, and she has a future, and she loves life,” said Melinda, Bridget’s mum, who now volunteers for the Salvos and continues her unconditional support for her daughter.


“I started this as a conscientious type, a perfectionist, control freak lawyer – it was a wild journey,” Melinda continued. “Anorexia and addiction are wild and fierce animals, and they disrupt the lives of everyday families and everyday people – every day. They don’t discriminate. You cannot run. I tried that. You cannot hide. I tried that, and no matter how hard you try to fight you eventually are beaten into submission. But I sit before you today, incredibly grateful and the happiest I have ever been.


“A huge shout-out to every single person in this room who is associated with The Salvation Army … I have my miracle, and that’s why I’ll turn up at God’s Sports Arena every Sunday and at the Streetlevel Mission on Thursday nights, and I’ll make sandwiches and I’ll make coffees and I’ll give hugs because every single person in that room is somebody else’s son or daughter.”


Supportive partnerships

Rebecca Livingston, ABC journalist, producer and presenter, was MC for the Brisbane event.


MC for the event was Rebecca Livingston, ABC journalist, producer and presenter.

Her Excellency Dr Jeannette Young, Governor of Queensland, officially launched the Queensland Red Shield Appeal at the breakfast. Dr Young and her husband, Professor Graeme Nimmo, are patrons of The Salvation Army Queensland.


“A society can quite fairly be judged based on how it chooses to treat its least fortunate,” Dr Young said. “We do not have the option of walking on by. Graeme and I deem it a great privilege to be among a group of Queenslanders who, like yourselves, choose not to walk on by.


“Your generous support provides street survival packs for those sleeping rough; meals, groceries and essentials for those in need, including escape kits for mothers and children escaping violence; financial assistance, counselling and accommodation for those families impacted by domestic violence; alcohol and drug services, and so much more.


The Queensland Red Shield Appeal was officially launched by Her Excellency Dr Jeannette Young, Governor of Queensland.

“Unfortunately, again, we can be sure there will be more floods, more cyclones, more fires, but we can also be sure that The Salvation Army will be there too, and they’re able to be there because you are there supporting the Salvos in the most practical way … It is indeed a great honour to officially launch the 2024 Red Shield Appeal, and I wish all those involved every success.”


Divisional Commander’s welcome

Major Mark Everitt, Queensland Divisional Commander, welcomed everyone to the launch and spoke of The Salvation Army’s Christian drive to help those in the greatest need in our community. “These are our people,” he said.


Mark spoke about the steady increase in homelessness and those struggling to make ends meet, the social isolation and mental health challenges people are facing, and the inundation of people seeking refuge from family violence and support to overcome addiction.


Major Mark Everitt, Queensland Divisional Commander, presented The Salvation Army’s ‘Others’ award.

He briefly shared the 140-year history of the work of the Salvos in Queensland and the ongoing reliance on the generosity of donors and supporters to propel the Army in its God-given work.


“We invite you to join with us to form a partnership with us to ensure those facing crisis can get the support they need when they need it … The truth is we can only fulfil our God-given mission because of you. I thank you, and may God bless you as you give.”


Others award

Mark also presented The Salvation Army’s ‘Others’ award – a tribute that recognises an organisation, trust or foundation that offers an extraordinary spirit of service to others – to Technology One. This enterprise software company “has supported The Salvation Army for 20 years through a partnership, especially focusing on improving educational outcomes for young people aligned to its core values,” explained Mark.


“Their financial support has had a significant impact over these years. Assisting the mission of The Salvation Army and our shared focus make a difference to

underprivileged, at-risk youth in our communities, empowering them to transform their lives and create their own pathways to success.”


Breakfast was then served, allowing people to network and chat with the Salvos representatives at each table.


After a video highlighting the work of the Salvos and the panel of guest speakers, Ross Israel, Brisbane Corporate and Philanthropic Advisory Group Chair, invited everyone to donate through various methods.


He quoted a “proverb” to those gathered: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”


“Today, I’m going to give you a few minutes to do your work,” he said.


Bringing hope

Colonel Winsome Merrett concluded the Brisbane launch with her closing comments, heartfelt thanks and prayer.


“Today reminds us of the possibilities,” she said. “We do believe in good. We do believe in hope. Our staff, we believe, bring hope every day to people who access our services. We’re very thankful for them. Just as we are very thankful for each of you.


Chief Secretary Colonel Winsome Merrett gave the closing remarks and a prayer.

“Your support of the Red Shield Appeal helps the Salvos stay on the front line, serving those who need it most. Together, we can help those who are enduring hardship. Our vision statement, which you’ve heard already today, ‘Wherever there is hardship or injustice, Salvos will live, love and fight alongside others, (you included) to transform Australia one life at a time with the love of Jesus’ (the one life matters).


“In this nation of Australia, our dedication lies in meeting people at their point of need, walking alongside them to navigate through Christ, guiding them through a transformational journey. And with your support, we can give a new beginning to those who need it.”


Simon Gregory, Public Relations Secretary for Queensland, said that “Our Red Shield Appeal Events give the business community an opportunity to support our work and hear how their generous gifts make a tangible difference for the people The Salvation Army assists.


“This year’s Brisbane event was a huge success with nearly $870,000 raised, including a donation from a locally owned, family business, HYTEK Framing, who generously matched $315,000 of donations made at the breakfast. These funds will be so vital in supporting the growing number of people coming to The Salvation Army for support.”


More than 500 people attended the Brisbane launch of the Red Shield Appeal.

 

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