A mother’s mission to end mental health stigma helped Vernon team become the biggest Ride Don’t Hide cycling fundraising team in Canada.

With just $851 left to reach the $60,000 goal for the Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) Ride Don’t Hide event, Vernon has once again earned the distinction of having the top fundraising team in Canada.

The annual national cycling event to end mental health stigma saw more than 10,000 riders in 25 communities join together on June 23rd to raise awareness of mental health and a combined $2 million for mental health programs. Funds stay in the communities where they are raised.

For the third consecutive year, a Vernon team is the top fundraising team in Canada. Liam’s Lunar Dragons raised an astounding $25,481 this year, bringing its three-year fundraising total to nearly $90,000.

The team was established by volunteer Ride Don’t Hide committee member Sheila Stainton in memory of her son Liam Hack. “We are very thankful for the amazing support from the community and our volunteers year after year,” said Stainton. “Without their donations, sponsorships and volunteer time planning and coordinating the event, the ride would not be where it is today.”

Stainton and her husband Jay Hack lost their son to suicide three years ago, just a few months before his 16th birthday. “What we thought was teenage angst was really situational depression, had we recognized the signs and symptoms of depression we might have saved his life,” said Stainton.

“Our hearts are steadfastly with Sheila and Jay, who courageously share their story of losing Liam,” said Julia Payson, CMHA Vernon Executive Director. “While it can be unimaginably painful, speaking about our experiences with mental health make it easier for others who are struggling in silence to get the help they need, to connect to resources, and to build strength and resilience.”

A major supporter of Liam’s team is the Bannister family, who has donated more than $32,000 over the past three years. “We are incredibly thankful for the overwhelming support from the Bannister family,” said Payson. “They are leading the way as champions dedicated to the future of our youth.”

Suicide continues to be the second leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds in BC, after motor vehicle accidents. About one in seven young people in BC will experience a mental illness at some point in their youth. CMHA provides early intervention and prevention programs for youth to develop coping and life skills, access peer and mentoring support, and develop healthy relationships through social connections throughout the community.

Funds raised from Ride Don’t Hide support local youth mental health programs and the Vernon Crisis & Chat/Text Line.

Donations to Ride Don’t Hide, Vernon & District Branch are being accepted until July 31st. Gifts can be made online at https://vernon.ridedonthide.ca.

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