Wednesday, 14 September 2016 12:10

Cliff Canter Run returns with renewed hope for better mental health for all in SE Alta.

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Janine and Mike Tolhurst participated in the inaugural Cliff Canter Run in 2015. Janine and Mike Tolhurst participated in the inaugural Cliff Canter Run in 2015. Contributed

Last year, Tanis Wendt started the Cliff Canter Run to bring attention to mental health issues with the support of the Prairie Rose School Division chapter of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.


Now, in its second year, the Cliff Canter Run looks to continue to build on its goal: “The Cliff Canter Run was born out of a dream to reduce stigma and discrimination, and to encourage empowerment around mental health in Medicine Hat and surrounding communities.”
Wendt, a teacher at Jenner School, says she was motivated to host the run for the second consecutive year.
“Considering that last year was our first event, I felt very proud of what our team accomplished. We created a strong team, built relationships, and contributed in the mental health realm by being an educational voice at the run and donated $1,200 to Alberta Mental Health,” explains Wendt. “I want to put the run on again because it is an annual event and my goal is for it to grow over the years. Our team would like to raise and donate more money to Alberta Mental Health and bring community members together to end the stigma and support our neighbours.”
While the goal is the same to bring about attention to mental health issues, there are some changes from last year. It’s still being held in the same spot as last year (enter Redcliff on Broadway Avenue E., travel straight for eight blocks, turn left on Main Street S., turn right on 9th Avenue S.W., follow to River Valley) and there are 3K, 5K and 10K runs available.
There are also noticeable changes this year.
Last year, the run was held in June. This year it takes place Oct. 15.
The slogan this year also signifies a huge change in that it takes place in the evening: “Ready. Set. Glow. 10.15.16: A glow run for mental health.”
“We changed our run to a glow format because there isn’t any glow runs in Medicine Hat in October and we wanted to try something new. It will be a super fun family event, and I think more people will want to come and try out all of the glow activities (glow face paint, glow water flippy cup, glow photo booth etc.),” explains Wendt. “Another major change is that we have some amazing partners on board which include DREAMS (which is a) mental health capacity building project which provides universal mental health and wellness services and supports to members of the Redcliff Community; MyPlace (which) is a school-based mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention program for middle years students in the Medicine Hat Public School District; and Sonya Brown from Alberta Health Services.”
Wendt also adds gratefully they have been lucky to get some more sponsors on board with District Bar and Grill providing snacks at the run. Kelli Ireland from the Canalta Center is helping Wendt and her assistant Jody Lamb with the communications in spreading the word about the run.
“It has been easier to get assistance for the run because we have a stronger organizing team this year and more volunteers,” says Wendt. “With more partners, sponsors, and help from other professionals we have been able to create more excitement and market the run better.”
There is an eye-catching website, all the main social media contacts and of course the Cliff Canter logo.
Wendt explains the Cliff Canter logo represents taking care of one’s self by being active in nature and being confident in following a unique path like a horse cantering in the cliffs. Simultaneously, it symbolizes the rural Southeastern Alberta landscape and the cliffs where the run takes place.
Wendt is a strong advocate for promoting mental health and giving a hand up for those who face challenges.
“It means more than words can describe to contribute more directly with mental health in Southern Alberta. Mental illness does not discriminate and I think everyone is affected by mental health in some way,” explains Wendt citing some Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) statistics that less than four per cent of medical research funding goes to mental illness research.
“I would like to see that number go up. CMHA states that ‘at this very moment, some three million Canadians are suffering from depression.’ There are a lot of myths around mental illness and there needs to be more education on the facts to end the stigma. If I can help even just one person have the courage to get the help they need, then I have done my job.”
While those numbers and statistics can seem discouraging, Wendt believes things are on the upswing with the fact mental health issues are getting more exposure in the media. She says things are looking up evening within the school division she works with, Prairie Rose.
“Sonya Brown, health promotion co-ordinator with Alberta Health Services South Zone, is working on developing a policy for Prairie Rose School Division that not only encompasses guidelines around nutrition and physical activity but mental health as well,” explains Wendt. “She states that they ‘believe healthy students are better learners and focusing on all areas of wellness creates healthy school environments’. Some of the details around the mental health in the policy is focusing around creating a community environment where students feel connected, and are given tools and resources to be strong mentally. Improved nutrition and participation in physical education are going to also improve a student’s overall mental health.
“She also states that focusing on staff mental health is also a huge focus ... ‘it really has a huge ripple effect. When staff are healthy, they are better role models to their students and are better able to educate students to be healthier and it starts with them.’ Grant dollars were applied and received from the Wellness Fund to support mental health literacy for staff. They will be provided with the resources with their own mental health and how to embed those techniques in the classroom.”
The Oct. 15 run in Redcliff begins with pre-run activities at 6 p.m. MyPlace and DREAMS students will host various pre-run activities including a mental health activity called “Mindfulness Rocks.” There will also be an inspirational speech given by Carla Thorogood, certified Canadian counsellor/ art therapist/behavior support coach.
The run starts at 7 p.m. The post activities take place from 7:30-9 p.m. with local music talent Rob Hudec performing. There are glow-in-the-dark stations as well food by District Bar & Grill.
Registration is open. To sign up visit the website at: www.cliffcanter.com. Registration for an adult (18+) is $20; child (ages 12-18) is $10. Children 12 and under are free with a food bank donation and/or item.
All registration fees include an exclusive run T-shirt, pre-run activities and some glow sticks.
Feel free to dress-up and dazzle yourself. There is free run registration with pledges of $50 or more.
Besides the website, for more information check out the Facebook page at Cliff Canter Run or Twitter @cliffcanterrun.

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Ryan Dahlman

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