Steve Deschamps has had multiple people in his life who live with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In fact, he spent his whole life growing up on a military base, and now he works in the navy. The runner is one of three men who did the Wounded Warriors training run from Sooke to Sidney, raising funds that support programs for those impacted by PTSD.
“The cause is very close to my heart,” Deschamps said. “It’s a little overwhelming to see the people on the streets and have their support.”
Last Sunday’s 65-km run made pit stops at Langford fire hall, the Saanich Police Department, and ended at the newly constructed fire hall in Sidney.
This run is a warm up for the yearly relay event that goes from Port Hardy to Victoria within a single week. The 600-km run down Vancouver Island is completed by a team of eight veterans, first responders and supporters.
Rebecca Schillemat will be among those lacing up, for this, the seventh time the event has been held on Vancouver Island.
“It’s a very Island event,” she says.
Schillemat is the Comox Valley’s sole member of the team this year. Her husband, Patrick, works as military police in Comox, and she is part of the team that’s raising awareness and funds for efforts to help military and first responders with mental health supports.
The Wounded Warrior Run takes place from Feb. 23 to March 1, starting at the north part of the Island in Port Hardy and heading about 600 kilometres south to Victoria.
Schillemat is not sure what to expect, saying it could feel like winter when they start in the north and like spring a week later in the capital.
People in the military or who work as first responders work face an increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. According to the Wounded Warrior website, a third of the people leaving the military have difficulty making a transition back to civilian life, while estimates for the proportion of first responders who will develop PTSD run between 10 and 35 per cent.
The fundraising has already started. On Feb. 9, the team held a gala dinner in Victoria, which raised about $25,000, and the ride between Sooke and Sidney, which brought in almost $15,000.
“It blows you away because you would never imagine that this would have grown to something so big,” said Allan Kobayashi, co-founder of the run. “So many people have opened up. It’s about people sharing that venom and being willing to talk about their problems.”
The run began in 2013 and initially had a goal to raise $5,000. Now, organizers are aiming $250,000. They had raised nearly $75,000, as of Feb. 9. Last year, they hit their goal of $100,000.
All this helps raise money for a range of supports to help people in the military or emergency services. For example, Schillemat says, it can cost about $30,000 for a service dog.
“As a runner, all I have to worry about is show up and run,” she says. “I have to be prepared to run 20 kilometres a day for eight days,” she adds.
Those interested in supporting Wounded Warriors Canada can donate online at woundedwarriors.ca/events/wounded-warrior-bc-run.