Swany's Challenge: A Legacy of Adventure

Jonathan David Cosman was the kind of guy who lived for the great outdoors.

Jonathan “Swany” Cosman

Jonathan “Swany” Cosman

“He always wanted to go outside,” remembers his brother Justin. “He was never one of those guys who wanted to stay indoors… He was always outside wanting to do stuff in the yard; building stuff.”

Known to his friends as Swany, Jon had a knack for making something out of nothing. He and his brother would gather up supplies on the spring clean-up garbage day to build go-karts, and other inventions. He liked the snow so much he created a snow machine to extend the season and built a chair lift of sorts in his front yard for all the neighbourhood kids’ sleds.

“He loved to ski,”says his aunt Dawn McCormack. “He almost built his own ski hill in the front yard and ski jump so that he could practice his ski jumping…”

“In the summer,” adds Justin. “He liked skiing so much he built this wooden platform… that goes down off the higher level of the deck and he put this material on it so he could ski on it in the summer and practice jumping and stuff.”

Jon struggled with mental illness and addiction. On March 26th this year, at the age of 26, he died as a result of an accident precipitated by his illness.

Outdoor and adventure-based therapies were an important part of Jon’s treatment. Knowing how much he enjoyed it, his family wanted to create an adventure-based therapy program for male-identified young adults living with mental illness and addiction. Swany’s Challenge was born.

“Jon’s parents, Lauren and Michael, felt it would be really nice if they could help at least one other person through some kind of positive experience like Swany’s Challenge,” says Dawn.

Swany’s Challenge is an adventure therapy experience aimed at supporting young adults living with mental illness and addiction. The multi-day therapeutic wilderness paddling expedition will be led by a certified guide and counselor. It will provide participants the means to reconnect with themselves and the natural world while bonding with others who share similar life challenges.

“Around a campfire you share stories and connect with people differently than you would just hanging out in a regular setting,” says Justin. “So I think that lends to the experience that they’ll have, with not just the counselor, but people going through the same thing… so they’ll be able to relate to people and build connections and a support group for themselves.”

The Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia is proud to launch Swany’s Challenge as its newest Named Grant. Building a legacy of adventure in memory of Jonathan Cosman while providing hope and support to the countless Nova Scotians who will undoubtedly benefit from Swany’s Challenge.

Click here to make a donation or learn more about Swany’s Challenge.