A day of remembrance, friendship, loss and suicide awareness was held for the friends and family of Jayden Chittick on the weekend.
Close to 100 people, Jayden's friends and their parents, took to the courts at the Milton Ulladulla Tennis Club for the Inaugural Jayden Chittick Open.
The former Ulladulla High School student loved tennis and used to enjoy the Australian Open and Sydney Open with his mum Lynne Chittick.
Jayden's friend Khy Whitford organised the event and established a page for people to donate funds to the Black Dog Institute.
Around $1500 was raised on the day, and $15,130 in total.
While the funds will be crucial in funding more suicide prevention services, Lynne said it was also important to bring Jayden's friends together.
"What we were trying to get across was that they need to stay in touch and look after each other," she said.
"Seeing his friends and knowing they're there for each other also helps George and I learn to live without Jayden."
Jayden's group of school friends who graduated in 2012 suffered another tragedy in 2014 when their classmate Chad Sloman died in a rail accident.
Jayden's friends travelled from Sydney, Canberra, Narrandera, Port Macquaire and further to come home for the inaugural event. The close-knit group is something special, Lynne said.
"I really truly need them to know that life needs more of these kids," she said.
"They have to live their life and know someone's always there for them."
Mollymook Golf Club donated $1000, along with Bannisters, Cupitt's Winery, Maverick Coffee and Empower Wholefoods who all donated gift vouchers.
Lynne said Jayden's big smile, his warm hugs and bright personality meant that his death came to a shock to many people.
After moving to Melbourne a few years ago, he briefly discovered the drug ice but after returning home to Ulladulla in July 2019, he'd been 500 days clean.
He was a hard worker and had a job at the Crown Melbourne, where he was a popular employee. He became an avid walker and Lynne said he'd sometimes rack up 100,000 steps a day.
After years struggling through issues surrounding his culture and his sexuality, Jayden told Lynne he was finally feeling unburdened.
"He said 'mum this is the first time I feel that I'm living'," Lyn said.
While she had no idea to what extent, Lynne said Jayden began to struggle again during Melbourne's lockdown period when COVID restrictions came into place.
With his regular social and exercise outlets limited, and access to health experts and physiologists restricted, Jayden's mental health began to deteriorate.
Lynne said Jayden poured his thoughts into many journals but 'didn't want to burden anyone'.
"He was such a beautiful soul and there's nothing anyone could have done to stop what happened," she said.
Tomorrow, January 26, 2021 will mark Jayden's 26th birthday. With Australia Day celebrations in full force, it will be a particularly tough day for the Chittick family.
"We used to go to the Beach Hut for brekkie so we'll do that but then I think we'll just quietly celebrate him at home," Lynne said.
- National 24/7 Crisis Services
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
- Blue Knot Foundation: 1300 657 380
- Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
- Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636