Marathon brings message of hope

Runners take off from Port Hardy on 535 km suicide prevention run.

PORT HARDY—In a nearly torrential rainshower, Kelly Paul set off from Port Hardy last week.

But the Tsartlip woman from Brentwood Bay hopes to spread a little light on her journey.

Paul is part of a team of three runners and support staff who left from the North Island this week to raise awareness of suicide prevention through the Heliset Hale Marathon — a 535 km run across Vancouver Island.

The team met with local students Friday and Paul had a simple message to pass on: “You are not alone.”

She explained that each member of the team had been affected by the suicides of friends or family and they determined to do something positive to make a change and to send a message of support to others facing the same issues.

In Paul’s case, she told students how she had been devastated by the loss of her younger brother. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through,” she said.

She suffered through guilt for a long time, wondering what she could have done to prevent her brother’s actions.

She urged students to share their feelings and to talk to adults at their school. She explained that, in her experience, she had found healing through getting involved in youth leadership and sport, embracing her culture and strengthening bonds with family and her community.

“Be positive,” she told the students, “try to find the good in everything.”

The name Heliset Hale means to ‘awaken the life in everyone’, and the runners hope that they can spread this positive message as they visit schools and First Nations communities the length of the Island.

Paul is joined by two other runners from the Saanich Peninsula, John Sampson and Bernice Smith. The trio will bring their message of hope across the Island in the coming weeks, the run scheduled to finish in Victoria on June 21 for Aboriginal Day.

The group hopes to raise funds as well as awareness on their journey to go towards building a youth drop-in centre in their community.

The team began their run on a wet and windy Saturday morning in Port Hardy.

A group of supporters and well-wishers gathered to see the runners off from Carrot Park, where a barbecue was fired up and a journey song sung for the group.

Supporters formed an honour guard with cedar branches and paddles through which the runners took the first of many steps on their marathon. The trio was joined for the first section by local runner Steve Holm as a cheering group saw them off.

After overnighting in Port McNeill, the team went on a brisk 18-kilometre jaunt down Highway 19 before returning to make a speaking appearance Monday in Alert Bay. They made another visit with students Tuesday morning in Port McNeill before resuming the trek south.