When the Illawarra business community came out swinging in support of the 6th Annual Corporate Golf Day run by event management students at TAFE Illawarra this month, they also witnessed how many youth wanted to address the issue of alcohol-fuelled violence.
The Thomas Kelly Foundation was chosen by students as the recipient of funds from the 2014 event because they saw it as such an important cause. The foundation was established to help curb the kind of alcohol-fuelled violence that robbed Thomas Kelly of his life in July 2012.
Students such as Renae Fedele said she and fellow participants in the [event]ure company, set up to run the golf day at Shell Cove, thought if the money they raised helped prevent what happened to Thomas Kelly from happening to someone else that would be a great outcome.
It resonated with the students because Thomas Kelly was a similar age to them when he was king-hit on his first visit to Kings Cross.
He had finished school six months earlier and had just started a job at an accounting firm. He was celebrating a friend's 18th birthday when he died.
Thomas Kelly's mother, Kathryn Kelly, spoke at the lunch, which was also attended by his father, Ralph Kelly.
But what many were not expecting when Mrs Kelly was introduced was a revelation by industry mentoring committee member Neil Webster. In speaking publicly for the first time about an experience of his own, Mr Webster shed new light on an annual event he organises called the Santa Claus Pub Crawl.
"It is all about changing people's attitude to the way they socialise with alcohol," he said.
"Seventeen years ago I was actually the victim of alcohol-related violence myself. I was leaving a bar in Hurstville one night. On the way home I got the absolute crap beaten out of me by five guys. I had my jaw snapped in two places, my nose broken, five cracked ribs and a concussion. I spent 4½ days in a coma and woke up not knowing what was going on. I spent the next three months with my mouth wired shut drinking through a straw."
Mrs Kelly recalled what happened the night Thomas was attacked in 2012, and the following days.
She then spoke about the decision to form the foundation as a legacy to their late son and the importance of creating cultural change. Mrs Kelly said it was the binge-drinking culture the family most wanted to address.
She said it was great to see there were so many wonderful, responsible young adults wanting to make a positive change.
The foundation has also been working with sporting bodies, community groups and focus groups, where youth are helping design a program to take into schools to promote responsible behaviour.
"Take Kare is the platform for all the things we are working on," Mrs Kelly said. "Thomas was known at school as TK and so someone came up with the idea of calling it Take Kare because ultimately our aim is to bring our children home safely."
Mrs Kelly said she was extremely impressed with the students behind the golf day.
"We are just astounded at their focus and the way they have put this incredible event on," she said.
"I would also like to thank Georgina Davies and Natalie Zelinsky for their incredible support and the sponsors here today."