COVID-19 has put the brakes on the 8th Annual Ride Don’t Hide.
Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Vernon and District Branch was planning to hold the ride in June, but the health and well-being of the community comes first and the ride, which aims to reduce mental health stigma and raise funds for local programming, has been cancelled.
“We want to avoid any unnecessary risks during the global pandemic we are experiencing,” CMHA Vernon executive director Julia Payson said.
Instead of the cycling event, CMHA Vernon has launched a fundraiser in its place. In This Together — COVID-19 Community Crisis Response will raise funds to meet the increased demand for Crisis Line services and the Nutrition Program.
“More than ever, our programs and services are desperately needed in the community,” Payson said. “We know many are struggling emotionally and financially, but for those who are able to help, we are most grateful.”
The local branch of CMHA has moved most of its programming online and to the phone while adding new services such as Phone Buddy to meet the increased need for social and emotional support for community members in isolation.
Staff and volunteers have also prepared, packaged and delivered more than 2,000 freezer-ready meals since mid-March and began food hamper delivery last month.
The Crisis Line has received a record amount of calls with 90 percent of those related to COVID-19 concerns.
Amid the pandemic, CMHA Vernon has received support through donations from Interior Savings Credit Union and TD Canada Trust to help fund relief initiatives. Donations from individuals have also been graciously accepted by the organization.
“We are incredibly thankful for the support we have received,” Payson said. “We hope to reach our $60,000 goal by the end of July to meet the need that would have been fulfilled with our Ride Don’t Hide event.”
Before COVID-19, the Ride Don’t Hide event planning was off to a great start raising more than $14,000 toward the end goal to support youth, Crisis Line and critical mental health services.
“We are the ones who have had the top fundraising ride team in Canada for the past three years,” Payson said. “The spirit of the North Okanagan community is resilient and vital and we will get through this together.”