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As DeMar DeRozan reveals his struggles with depression, Raptors fans have his back

Raptors fans rallying to support all-star who recently revealed his struggles with depression.

Raptors fans Aleks Sanjevic, Judith Wang and Syed Hasny have all contributed to Project Don’t Worry We Got You.

Torstar News Service

Raptors fans Aleks Sanjevic, Judith Wang and Syed Hasny have all contributed to Project Don’t Worry We Got You.

When Chris Bosh left the Raptors for the Miami Heat in 2010, a young DeMar DeRozan reached out to comfort and inspire abandoned Toronto fans with a brash tweet: “Don’t worry, I got us.”

Despite four all-star selections since then, while rewriting the franchise record book — and leading the team to its fifth straight NBA playoff appearance next month — the Raptors’ 28-year-old franchise player caught onlookers by surprise when he revealed his struggles with depression.

Fans are rallying to show him their support and appreciation with Project Don’t Worry We Got You.

“DeMar is a superhero. He’s invincible. Watching him play, we didn’t know what’s going on in his life,” said Syed Hasny of Milton.

DeRozan’s tweet on NBA all-star weekend in February— “This depression get the best of me” — was shrugged off by fans as a quote from a song lyric until he told the Star’s Doug Smith that despite all his fame and money, there are “times everything in the whole world’s on top of you.”

“That’s a pretty strong statement from somebody with his stature,” Hasny said of DeRozan’s tweet. “His father is very sick and his mother has Lupus. It would be nice to show our appreciation and support for all that he has done for Toronto and his fans all over the world.”

DeRozan’s comments in the Star drew an outpouring of support from fans and fellow athletes, including Cleveland Cavaliers all-star Kevin Love, who detailed his own battle with anxiety in an online personal essay.

Earlier this month, Hasny, a McMaster University psychology student, asked the Raptors’ fan group on Reddit for ideas to do something to express their gratitude to DeRozan, a Compton, Calif. native who has spent his entire nine-year career with the Toronto Raptors.

Others quickly responded and they decided to create a book filled with messages from fans for DeRozan to see. The response was overwhelming.

An initial target of $80 through GoFundMe was quickly passed and funds have ballooned to $1,000. More than 100 people sent in letters of support or shared their struggles.

The additional money will be donated Lupus Canada.

Seventeen-year-old Aleks Sanjevic was among the Raptors fans to respond.

“We band together and are like a big family. We don’t see each other, but we talk often like friends. Seeing your favourite player going through hard times, it hurts you a little bit,” said the Brampton teen, who has known people around him tortured by mental health illnesses.

“It’s our way of saying ‘thank you for being here for us.’ He put his trust into us when he was a rookie. We want him to know that we are here for him as well.”

Judith Wang, who also pitched in on the book project, said DeRozan’s admission that he struggles with depression has opened up the conversation about mental health issues, which are still a social taboo.

“I think DeMar really inspires everyone whether they are basketball fans or not,” said the 19-year-old York University business student.

“You see the effects of mental health illnesses on loved ones. Sometimes it is hard for young people to understand what it is. It’s still a social stigma. It is important for people to get rid of that.”

DeRozan told reporters last week he’s been overwhelmed in general by the support from fans and the basketball world.

“The response and everything I’ve got back from it was so positive . . . and it made me feel, you know, pretty damn good, honestly,” DeRozan said. “So it’s cool to be able to help somebody.”

The group will continue to accept submissions of artwork, short messages, long letters, words of support and photo images until March 23 at The goal is to hand DeRozan the book before the NBA playoffs.

“We want to get it to him before the playoffs so he has something to read between the games,” Wang said with a chuckle.

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