Volunteers from the Immanuel Lutheran Church outreach program in Lethbridge are making sure the conversations around mental health continue.
“We have some pretty great people at our church who thought we would organize an event around a subject that’s affecting all of us,” said pastor Lee Loveridge. “And that’s our mental health.”
On Sunday, bikers, walkers and runners hit the trails for Ride Don’t Hide, an annual event that raises money for the Canadian Mental Health Association.
It’s a first-time event for the city of Lethbridge.
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“We’ve looked at it before but internally, as an organization, we haven’t had the resources to organize it,” said communications lead and project co-ordinator for the Canadian Mental Health Association David Gabert.
“Kathy and her team have done all the legwork. They approached us and said, ‘We’ve heard about this, and we want to bring it to Lethbridge.’”
Kathy Mitschke is a volunteer with the outreach program at Immanuel Lutheran Church. The idea to organize a Ride Don’t Hide for Lethbridge started when her family decided to fundraise for the Canadian Mental Health Association for her husband’s birthday instead of asking for gifts.
“We thought, ‘Well this is happening on a yearly basis, and it’s not really happening in Lethbridge,’” she said. “So we decided to bring it here for the first time ever.”
Fifty-eight people registered to take part. Start times were spread out to minimize gatherings, and trails were marked out with chalk. Food trucks were waiting in the parking lot to offer some sweet treats to those finishing.
Ride Don’t Hide event aims to bring attention to mental health
“I think it’s even more meaningful when it’s organized by members of the community rather than an organization looking to raise some money,” said Gabert.
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The meaning behind the event wasn’t lost on those who took part.
Kennedy DesRoche biked with her two best friends.
“Some people have stuff that they have to get out but they don’t know how to do it,” she said.
Her mom, Joanne DesRoche, led the group. They called themselves “Joanne and the Troublemakers.” For her, it was important to make sure the girls knew she was there for them.
“Everything that’s going on with the girls with COVID-19 and the pandemic, they don’t come out and tell us everything that’s going on with them because they know I can’t do anything about it,” she said.
Getting loud about mental health at the annual Ride Don’t Hide cycling fundraiser across the Okanagan
Mental health and mental well-being have been top of mind for many throughout the pandemic.
A study done by the Canadian Mental Health Association and the University of British Columbia shows that 41 per cent of Canadians reported a decline in their mental health since the onset of the pandemic.
Gabert said they have seen an increase in people reaching out for help since the pandemic started.
“We see more and more people each day, each month as the pandemic wears on and it takes its toll on the mental health of Canadians,” said Gabert.
“I think that’s why events like this, where we can raise awareness, we can raise a little bit of money, but most of all, we can see each other face to face and have those connections that are so important to our mental health and well-being.”
So far, the group has raised $2,000 for the Canadian Mental Health Association.
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“We have a goal of $10,000,” said Mitschke. “We’re very hopeful we can meet it by the end of June.”
While the event may be a first for Lethbridge, Immanuel Lutheran Church organizers hope it won’t be the last.
“We’re really excited that this is the first one,” said Loveridge. “And if it turns into an annual event, awesome. Next year is going to look a lot different, we know that much.”
Donations to YQL Ride Don’t Hide can be made online.
If you’re experiencing any sort of mental health crisis please reach out to the Canadian Mental Health Association Distress and Suicide Prevention Line of Southwest Alberta at 403-327-7905.
If you’re looking for support and resources, contact Canadian Mental Health Association – Community Links at 403-328-5465.
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