At 18, Cole Strilchuk has been involved in helping local mental health for nearly half his life.
It all started in 2010 when Vernon’s Michael Schratter began a worldwide cycling journey to combat mental health stigma.
Strilchuk, along with his parents and younger brother, became involved when Schratter, a school teacher living with bipolar disorder, rode through Vernon. As a nine-year-old, Strilchuk was incredibly excited to have the opportunity to join Schratter on the ride.
His enthusiasm led to featuring Schratter’s journey as his school heritage project.
“It was a great experience that stuck with me ever since,” said Strilchuk. “It was really neat to be there at the beginning and amazing to see how the ride has changed and grown since then.”
Annually, Cole and his family have taken part as riders and fundraisers for the Canadian Mental Health Association, Vernon & District Ride Don’t Hide event since 2013, raising more than $40,000 for local youth mental health.
This year, determined to make an even bigger impact, the Grade 12 student from Kalamalka Secondary school decided to hold a community fundraising event.
Strilchuk enlisted the help of students, parents and teachers to organize and run a garage sale in April that raised more than $1,800 for the ride.
“Everyone was on board and said, ‘Yes, let’s do this,’” said Strilchuk.
Strilchuk emphasizes the importance of speaking about mental health in everyday life to help end stigma that prevents people from getting the help they need.
“Every conversation matters. Talking about it can help others in ways you don’t even know. Every time you mention something it’s going to have an impact on someone and help others to talk to someone else.”
Meanwhile, a downpour of rain couldn’t stop the outpouring of generosity and community spirit last Sunday as more than 170 community members including 127 riders and striders took part in the 7th annual CMHA Ride Don’t Hide event at Creekside Park.
To date, more than $50,000 towards the $60,000 goal was raised from online registrations and donations, a virtual ride hosted at Soul Studio fitness club, and proceeds from a bike raffle held by The Medicine Shoppe.
“We are overwhelmed by the continuing support we receive from our generous community,” said Julia Payson, CMHA Vernon and District executive director. “From participants, donors, sponsors, volunteers and supporters, it is encouraging and heartening to see everyone working together to help end the stigma that prevents people from receiving the mental health services they need.”
Funds raised from the event will support youth mental health education and peer support programs, and the 24/7 Crisis Line.
CMHA Vernon will be accepting donations towards this year’s Ride Don’t Hide until July 15. Donors can support the ride by giving online at http://vernon.ridedonthide.ca or in person at CMHA Vernon branch located at 3100 – 28th Ave.
The Vernon ride is one of the most successful Ride Don’t Hide events in the country, last year raising more funds per capita than any other community.