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Corner Brook woman starts clothing line in aid of mental health

Sara Budgen (centre) has started a clothing line in aid of mental health in honour of her sister Stephanie (right) who took her own life in December. The sisters are shown here with with their mother Ann Marie Cunard during Sara’s wedding.
Sara Bugden (centre) has started a clothing line in aid of mental health in honour of her sister Stephanie (left) who took her own life in December. The sisters are shown here with with their mother Ann Marie Cunard during Sara’s wedding. - Submitted

The four words tattooed on Stephanie Cunard’s wrist served as a reminder to keep moving.

The phrase “my story hasn’t ended” is as simple as it is profound. It can push someone to find the light in a dark situation. 

Stephanie Ayn Cunard
Stephanie Ayn Cunard

Stephanie had struggled with mental illness for years and was vocal about how it was affecting her.

Despite that, she had a smile that lit up a room and a laugh that distinguished herself from anyone else.

She was personable, loved animals and loved her nieces.

On Dec. 1, 2017, Stephanie lost her battle with her illness and took her own life.

The knock came on Sara Bugden’s door early that morning. The news wasn’t something anyone wants to get and it didn’t really hit her until days later.

That brings us back to the phrase on Stephanie’s wrist. Sara has pledged to keep her younger sister’s story going. Sara turned to that tattoo when she was looking for a way to honour her young sister’s memory.

“(Stephanie) would be so proud of this,” said Sara. “If she had a bad day or if she had a good day, she was very vocal about this. I think she would have been so happy about this.”

She had been trying to find a way to honour her sister’s memory and gave back to the community for some time, but nothing stuck.

That’s until the weekend of Feb. 24. In a bout of restlessness that prevented her from sleeping, the idea of selling T-shirts came to her.

Sara figured she’d better post the idea before she lost her nerve and decided to give something else a try.

There are three designs available for order. They’re simple and have a single word followed by a green ellipsis, or three dots.

The words “Warrior,” “Continue” and “Survive” are the basis for the three designs. The words represent elements of how people and mental illness intertwine.

They implore those affected by mental illness to keep moving forward. Life goes on and so should they.

A semicolon is located where the “i” would be. Sara says the semicolon is meant to also symbolize there’s more to come.

Keeping with the idea of staying on the path, the three dots at the end signify a forward movement and the green represents mental health.

It is a simple design that has a not-so-simple meaning.

As someone who goes through bouts of depression — although not clinically diagnosed — I find a lot of solace in the words on the shirts.

I’m not much for speaking about it. Oddly enough I’ll write about it, so focusing on taking one step at a time when those down moments strike keeps me grounded.

That’s enough about me, though.

The response to the T-shirts has been a surprise to the 33-year-old. In just 48 hours, the Facebook group — called Cont;nue — had grown to 1,314 members and there were 250 shirt orders.

Since then, another 300 people had joined and there were even more shirt orders.

It’s a far cry from what Sara envisioned when she first proposed the idea.

Sara figured she’d see if she could sell 40 shirts and then make a donation after they were gone.

Instead, things went a bit wild.

She’s gotten orders from out of province, had people telling them how mental illness has affected them and local stores offering to sell her products.

“I’m overwhelmed with joy with the way people are responding,” said Sara. “I would’ve never thought it was going to be like this.”

Sara has pledged to donate 100 per cent of her profits in aid of mental health. The focus, she said, is to help mental health services in rural parts of Newfoundland and Labrador where it can be harder for people to get the help they need.

“We haven’t decided where the money is going, but it will be staying (in the province),” said Sara.

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