Saturday, March 22, 2014

Clara Hughes' Mental Health Tour

Our school had the honour of hosting a visit from Clara Hughes yesterday - six time Olympic winner for cycling and speed skating.  She's biking around Canada - ALL around Canada - talking about mental health.  She biked through a snow storm in Woodstock on her way to K-W.  Very hard core!

She had a rough childhood but then turned her energy from delinquency to sports in her late teens.  She didn't start speed skating until 27, and the kids were surprised to find out she's 41 - practically ancient!    Her dad was an alcoholic and had bi-polar, and her sister also has bi-polar, so she had a tough time telling her mom when she found herself in a pit of depression.  Her mantra is "stop the stigma," and she did a great job by sharing her story so frankly.  She was such a warm, open, and authentic speaker (with a great Canadian accent!) that she'd be an inspiration even without the medals.  

She spoke of the importance of access to sports and art for kids to use as an outlet for expression and emotional energy.  They're not extras in society but essentials.

The emcee made it very clear in the presentation that Bell is paying all the costs of her tour and that every penny donated goes straight to mental health initiatives - an important note for the more cynical among us!  Mental health phone lines and care and support is costly, and there's not enough money coming from the government to give access to all Canadians.  Bell has already donated $62 million to mental health institutions since 2010.  The more people that use the #BellLetsTalk hashtag, the more they'll donate in lieu of spending money on advertising.

ETA:  I also liked that Clara encouraged people to petition the government for real change.  Her 12,000 km ride ends on July 1st in Ottawa at Parliament Hill.  Getting donations from corporations is only a part of the solution.

I was a lucky recipient of a hug from Clara as she thanked a group of us who collaborated on a mural to honour her journey.  I was just one of many painters, but the real kudos go to the teacher who made it all happen and did the final details, Caz Bentley, and the designer, a student, Jacqueline Snyder, who spoke in a CTV video filmed at a talk Clara did the night before coming to KCI.

Here's the symbolism behind it all:  The number of bikes represents the number of medals she won.  The colours (black, blue, green, red, and gold) are the colours of the olympic rings.  But more importantly the bikes move from the black to the gold symbolic of the hilly process of emerging into the light with a mental illness.  Isn't that lovely!  (Apologies for the blurriness; t's the only photo I could find.)

And Clara got a kiss from KCI's goats before leaving:

h/t Matt Morris
Follow her ride on twitter, and don't forget to add #BellLetsTalk whenever you tweet!


Anonymous said...

So if corporate agrees with your POV/cause that makes them o.k. Otherwise...

Marie Snyder said...

I'm not saying I support Bell at all, but I do support that they aren't taking any cash up top for their efforts. I think it's a good marketing strategy (good for charities and for the company) to pay for advertising by donating whenever the public advertises for them! I don't use any of Bell's services, but it won't hurt to help raise cash for mental health just by tweeting their hashtag.

Joel Vasquez Villalobos said...

WOW!! Another 185km to trek today on her way to Woodstock

Walter Ynche Delgado said...

Yes, I support Clara Hughes Big Ride at #ClarasBigRide #BellLetsTalk #Journal vía @LivingAlpha

Walter Ynche Delgado said...

Fredericton is preparing for the long awaited arrival of Clara as she bikes another 99 km of rugged terrain

Unknown said...

Here is a cool article about her Fredericton Stop. Short and Sweet with some pics for people that are not familiar with the area.

Walter Ynche Delgado said...

Clara Hughes adds another 124 km of rugged, snowy terrain to her charity bike riding journey as she rolls on to Saint John in order to bring more awareness about mental health

QM Graves said...

If Clara Hughes' cause is of interest to you, follow Clara's Big Ride at Here you can keep up with information about every stop that she has made and will make during her charity bike ride.

Today she's leaving from Charlottetown and will be biking another 166 km today to make her first stop in Nova Scotia in the city of Truro. You can actually learn more about the planned events and what she will be doing there at

Anonymous said...

Dear Clara,
you are fantastic! I worked 16 years in Mental Institution and I have many great and sad experiences. If you need any help, let me Know. I live in Nelson BC