By Scott Strasser, October 18 2016 —
The not-for-profit organization Outrun the Stigma (OTS) raised over $19,000 for the Calgary Distress Centre with their fourth annual walk/run at the University of Calgary on Oct. 16.
OTS was created in 2013 by the U of C’s Distress Centre on Campus club and the Mental Health Awareness club. The student-led organization holds an annual walk/run on the U of C campus every October to raise awareness of mental health issues.
This year marked the first run after OTS became a certified non-profit organization in May. The event raised $19,662 — over $3,000 more than the group’s original $16,000 target.
“We’re just absolutely ecstatic,” OTS co-coordinator Jenna Dobry said after the event. “I was blown away when I saw it. I’m so excited to give that to the Distress Centre, because they really do deserve it and need it for all those services they provide.”
Prior to this year’s event, OTS had raised around $24,000 for the Calgary Distress Centre since their first run in 2013.
OTS co-coordinator Amanda Lee said participants took it upon themselves this year to increase fundraising initiatives and raise awareness of the run.
“If [people] couldn’t make it to the run, they would still encourage friends and family to donate. It was really amazing to see the support we got for [the] Distress Centre because they really do provide a lot of essential services,” Lee said.
The annual event also includes a Mental Health Expo. This year, 19 local organizations and charities in the mental health field set up booths to advertise their services, including the Calgary Counselling Centre, Organization for Bipolar Affective Disorder and the Students’ Union Wellness Centre.
“The expo is one of the very important things we do as a run. We have these organizations here to talk about their services and really educate people,” Dobry said.
The event also included musical performances and guest speeches from U of C manager of Student Leadership Development Gareth McVicar and fifth-year psychology student Clare Hickie. The pair shared their personal stories regarding mental health.
Lee said story-sharing has become an important part of OTS’ operations.
“We really hope to spark conversations about why we’re here and what mental health really means to us,” she said.
One of the run’s participants was U of C alumnus Tom Hardy, who has attended every OTS run since 2013.
“Stigma is always going to be present,” he said. “But if everybody works towards it, they can beat it.”
According to Dobry, 266 people participated in the run this year.