Karen Graczyk, president of the Ladysmith Legion Branch 171, presents the Wounded Warriors team with a cheque for $1147.52 as the run stopped in Ladysmith on Saturday. (Gerry Beltgens photo)

Wounded Warriors run through Ladysmith

Event raises money for PTSD and mental health support programs for veterans, first responders

Members of the Wounded Warriors Canada Run powered their way up First Avenue with a full escort of emergency vehicles Saturday, March 2, bringing with them a message of awareness of the stress that comes with saving lives.

The team reached Ladysmith on Day 6 of its seven-day, relay-style cross-Island trek that kicked off Feb. 25 in Port Hardy. Athletes covered more than 600 kilometres, stopping in communities to raise awareness and funds for Wounded Warriors Canada.

Funding supports national mental health programs for veterans, first responders and their families struggling with operational stress injuries such as PTSD.

“We roll into each community and our team goes into Legions and community halls [where] we stand up and we talk about PTSD,” said WWRBC director Jacqueline Zweng.

“We’re trying to normalize that conversation [and] for people to know there’s a source of hope, there are people here that are listening and we also have life changing programming.”

“If somebody has an injury that’s invisible, for some reason that’s harder to talk about and to address…we want people to know that it’s a huge sign of strength to come forward and talk about it instead of staying in silence.”

During their Ladysmith stop, team members were saluted by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 171, which donated a cheque for $1,147 toward the cause.

The run was started six years ago by Dan Bodden, a warrant officer in the Canadian air force, and raises funds for Wounded Warriors programs such as BOS (Before Operational Stress) and COPE (Couples overcoming PTSD Everyday).

Bodden said it is also about keeping important conversations about mental health and PTSD alive.

“I was tired of reading the news about another veteran, another police officer harming themselves. I thought well, the system’s going to change eventually but why not help out with that change and lead by example?” he said. “I think the first step in any mental health issue, despite how much money you want to throw at it, is acknowledging it and getting it out from under the light.”

“The $100,000 we raised is terrific, and it certainly is a very nice metric, but I think that metric is reflective of how many people are able to talk about [PTSD] and how things are changing,” Bodden added.

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Naval veteran Stéphane Marcotte, who is a Wounded Warrior team member along with his wife Susan, talked about how important his compassion dog Sarge has been, and why he supports the run.

“They gave me so much, so I like to give back. They saved my life,” he said.

VI Compassion Dogs began six years ago at the request of 19 Wing Comox, who had a member who needed help. Their dogs are accredited, and both dogs and owners spend 52 weeks training. When the program first started, Wounded Warriors Canada was among the first organizations to step up and help financially, VICD director Barb Ashmead said.

The run concluded on Sunday, March 3 at the BC Legislature building in Victoria and raised more than $100,000.

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Runners and team members in the sixth Wounded Warrior Run BC congregate on the steps of B.C. Legislature after completing a relay-style 600-kilometre run down Vancouver Island. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

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