CMHA’s 16th Annual Jimmy Richardson Walk for Wellness was a chance to celebrate

Elisabeth Dowson
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The annual fundraiser named for Jimmy Richardson experienced a bit of a rebirth this year, held on the fourth anniversary of his passing and also at a time when the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Centre is receiving some much-needed revitalization with new exterior paint and an outdoor gazebo.

This year, the Walk for Wellness route was changed from Elmwood Park to bring attention to the CMHA’s Centre at 176 4th Ave. N.W. Participants walked along Chaplin St. to Market Square, where a brief ceremony took place at 11:45 a.m. and balloons were released in Jimmy’s memory. The Centre hosted a barbecue lunch after the walk.

“This was the anniversary of [Jimmy’s] death,” said Centre manager Ruth Smith. “He died Sept. 15, 2008, and I didn’t really put the two together until [his niece] phoned me a few days ago and said, Ruth, do you realize…? And I thought that was really good because we had this opportunity to kind of celebrate.”

“This is the largest I think this year, as far as people participation that we’ve had ever, and I don’t know about the numbers yet. We didn’t have any corporate sponsors this year because we’ve asked so many people for help over the last little while that I just wanted not to ask.”

Jimmy’s niece, Pauline Holliday (nee Richardson), made a personal appearance and participated in the walk because her family has mental health issues and she wants to carry on the work begun by her uncle.

“He wanted the walkathon to continue. They were going to quit and he said no, we’ve got to keep on going. Every year he raised $1,000 because it was his mission and he wanted to keep it going. So I want to keep it going too,” Holliday said.

The walkathon was Jimmy’s way of raising awareness and endeavouring to help people become more at ease when supporting loved ones with mental illness.

“I’ve had depression in 1995 for six months. I kind of know what it’s like. I want to get the word out because it’s important. People kind of turn away and leave you if you have mental illness. Nobody wants to help you because you’re different, or there’s something odd about you, but you need that support because if you do not have that support you won’t get better.”

Many people don’t realize that mental illness touches everyone in some way.

“My mother has schizophrenia, my brother has depression too … and my friend committed suicide because she didn’t get the help she needed. That’s why I want to help CMHA out.

“People have to get comfortable with mental illness. It affects everybody, and everybody shies away from it. They’re afraid to say, ‘I have this,’ because people turn around and walk away from you,” Holliday said.

Smith prepared for the balloon launch by saying, “I just really want to thank all the people, the new faces that we see walking here with us today. That’s really exciting. That means that word is getting out there about mental health and Canadian Mental Health issues.”

Back at the CMHA Centre, there were more reasons to celebrate. The building has a brand new coat of paint and a gazebo is under construction in the back yard, offering an outdoor space for activities. Brent Lachapelle Painting Ltd. donated both labour and paint for the exterior. “I have to tell you, I almost feel like crying when you think of the generosity of one company that just gave so much. They’d come between jobs to do it, but they did it pretty quick,” said a grateful Smith.

The gazebo project was undertaken by Swift Current Kiwanis Club. “It’s always amazing to me how things interlock and how things happen. How you know somebody who knows somebody and they help you in this way and it keeps going around,” Smith reflected in appreciation. “The guys that have been working out there, Kiwanis, they’re not all so young,” she added with a smile.

Smith hopes the temperate fall weather will hold out for another week or two.

“I’m still hoping to have all the signs up and the back yard done and have a grand re-opening in October.”

Organizations: Canadian Mental Health Association

Geographic location: Elmwood Park

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