Today is one I’ll remember forever. It was an honour to be a part of the group of cyclists that got to ride the first few kilometres with Clara Hughes as she started her epic [a word that does not overstate it] journey around the country on her bicycle. She’ll be stopping in around 100 communities in every province and territory, from east to north to west and back to the east again. She’ll be cycling 12,000 kilometres and will complete it when she rolls into Ottawa on Canada Day. It’s all to raise awareness about mental health issues with the ultimate goal of erasing the stigma around mental health so that, one day, mental health will be afforded the same importance by us all–yes, including governments–as physical health is.
Today in Toronto, at Maple Leaf Square where her journey begins, it was cold…windy, chilly, shivery. The cyclists accompanying Clara on her first few kilometres as she sets off to Hamilton, Ont., today were there representing companies and organizations who are partnering with Clara’s Big Ride for Bell Canada. (Best Health is national magazine partner, and one of our account managers, Karen Smylie, was my riding buddy today.) All of us were bundled up for the elements…and couldn’t imagine how Clara will feel as she rides 100k a day, almost every day, for the next 100+ days–in this weather! (Spring has yet to hit eastern Canada.)
It’s an honour to be a part of this endeavour in helping spread the word about how we need to pay more attention to mental illness. Clara told me in an hour-long interview one week ago: "Canadians will be in my heart with every pedal stroke. As I meet people in communities everywhere I ride on this journey, my hope is that anyone who is suffering from depression or any mental illness will realize they are not alone, that there should not be a stigma, and that they can talk to someone and get help."
For more information, and to find out when Clara will be coming to a community near you, go to clarasbigride.bell.ca.