A gruelling wet and windy run for eight dedicated stalwart Wounded Warrior runners has made its way to Nanaimo.
Having left Port Hardy last Sunday, Feb. 26, the runners touched base with well-wishers in more than a dozen municipalities by the time they reached Nanaimo.
The tour departed Nanaimo the morning of Saturday, March 4, bound for Ladysmith, Chemainus, Duncan and finishing at Shawnigan Lake. The run will conclude tomorrow in Victoria.
“We exist to honour and support Canada’s ill and injured Canadian Forces members, veterans, first responders and their families,” noted a statement from the Wounded Warriors.
Mark Blachuras, a B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic based in Chemainus, said he has seen co-workers, friends and responders from other agencies suffering from mental health issues, feeling alone and unsupported. He has seen friends taking and attempting to take their own lives.
The last few years have been particularly stressful for first responders, he said.
“We basically stacked on top of the opioid crisis to start, then we were hit with COVID-19 … We also went through the heat dome, which also put the province under a huge stress with health care,” said Blachuras. “Also on top of that, like many other people, we were dealing with staffing issues and call volume increase and population increase, so COVID-19 really took a toll on us, but we’re still working through it.”
The event’s website states that the last year there were more than 80 reported first responder or veteran suicides, and suggested that with work-induced injuries and stress, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, there is a strong need for greater access to support programs.
The Wounded Warriors provide programs such as trauma resiliency, PTSD support, couples resiliency, support for surviving spouses, and more. The group also supports the Warrior Kids Camp, PTSD service dogs and other initiatives. On an annual basis, the Wounded Warriors help more than 1,200 veterans, first responders and family members, and the program assists with more than 100 service dogs. A total of $25 million has been invested in program delivery over the years.
For more information, visit http://woundedwarriors.ca.
– files from Karl Yu and Duck Paterson
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