As Run Ends, Imagine Looks to the Future

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Runner get colourful at the 2017 Imagine Colour Run Pedro Balseiro

A sunny and temperate September 23 provided the perfect day for this year’s mental health awareness run. After ten years, Imagine’s last run has come and gone, and its team marked the special day in a fittingly flamboyant fashion: with colour. Lots of colour.

“The colour powder was a total blast,” says Jazmin Dobson, event coordinator. “There’s something so motivating about getting blasted with colourful powder while running. It’s high energy and gives you something to look forward to on the route. The [Imagine team] did get to enjoy the course this year, which was a real treat. Everyone enjoyed themselves, especially the kids.”

Following a mid-afternoon yoga session in Hespeler Park, 264 registered runners kicked off the event, winding along the park’s paths and up a two-mile stretch of Crown Valley Road, eventually circling back into the park. En route, volunteers lay in wait with dispensers of brightly coloured powder, covering the runners from head to toe. Many of the participants wore white shirts, enhancing the rainbow effect.

The event continued with a barbecue, a glow paint party, face-painting, balloon animals, and a fire show by Spark. As dusk began to settle, a magnificent fireworks display filled the sky above Niverville.

“We tried to really make this entire event unique, but the colour run was the biggest thing that was unique to this year,” Dobson says. “The goal was to simplify yet celebrate ten great years.”

Though the ten-member Imagine team worked hard to create a fun and memorable event, their goal, as always, was to open the conversation about mental health issues and provide a space where everyone, including children, can recognize the struggle so many face and actively work towards changing the future for mental health sufferers.
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Whether a runner or not, everyone was encouraged to walk the Lonely Mile, a stretch of the park’s path commemorating those who have died by suicide. Eighty-six signs bordered the Lonely Mile, each bearing the name of someone who’d succumbed in their struggle.

“The sight of them never ceases to give me pause,” says Dobson. “It’s heartbreaking. Not all are locals, but a good 80 percent of them are.”

One Big Day
Imagine held a separate fundraiser on September 20 called One Big Day for Imagine. The timing of both events is strategic, coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Month.

The One Big Day fundraiser ran from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. in the Niverville Credit Union parking lot. A host of people well known to residents of Niverville and Ritchot were hoisted up, individually or in pairs, in a boom. Armed with only their cell phones, each celebrity was given a maximum of a half-hour to contact friends and family, soliciting donations that would bring them back down to ground level. 

“[The intent is] to let their personal contacts know that they are [many] feet in the air and they need help, as though they are in crisis,” says Mona Dumont, Imagine team member. “They start the conversation by using their personal contacts to call and talk about mental health and suicide. The idea of using one’s personal phone is that, if you were in crisis, you would call someone from your contacts.”

Celebrities that day included Carl and Heather Fast of Wm. Dyck and Sons, singer Melanie Bergen, Ritchot mayor Chris Ewen, comedian Matt Falk, Al and Ruby Wiens of Wiens Furniture, Ray and Cara Dowse of The Citizen, among others. 

Together, this band of philanthropic individuals raised well over $27,000. The day’s events also included a $2 barbecue. Former Olympian Michelle Sawatzky Koop, now a broadcaster for CHSM radio, hosted the event. 

Mental Health Matters founder Mona Stott says she’s taken aback by the transformation that has happened in the region within the last ten years of the organization’s mission. 

“People are now speaking with ease [about mental health], which would have never happened years ago,” says Stott, “I am speechless at the support and generosity. Although the run event is done, I realize that our work and mission will continue through future endeavours.”

Stott, the mother of a son lost to suicide ten years ago, remains focused on the goal and says that Imagine will continue to be re-invented in new ways. She wants to spread the word well beyond Niverville’s borders, and the mission will always be the same: to erase the stigma surrounding mental health and create suicide-safe communities by giving mental health sufferers the courage to ask for help from those walking the journey with them.

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