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Kelowna’s first ever Stigma Stroll took place outside of Third Space Coffee on Dolphin Avenue on Saturday morning.
The event, created by Kelowna resident Reid Schretlen is hoping to raise funds, awareness and conversation surrounding the stigma of mental health.
“One of the things about mental health is that we all know it exists and that there are resources out there but sometimes maybe we don’t know how to connect with them — or because it is still a bit stigmatized it is not as openly discussed,” said Schretlen.
After a fierce battle of his own with depression, Schretlen decided to do something to help others gain the courage and confidence to seek help without feeling ashamed or afraid, thus giving life to the Stigma Stroll.
The brisk and inclusive two-kilometre walk is taking place across seven communities in the Okanagan, having already swept through Penticton, Summerland and West Kelowna since this past Thursday.
“It has been really great to see within these communities people of all ages and backgrounds come out to support the cause because we know that mental health can affect everyone in one way or another,” said Schretlen.
Each community walk may be brief but to keep the message spreading and the conversation going, Schretlen and his friend Clayton Nelson are also participating in the Super Stroll.
The Super Stroll is a 115 km walk that takes the pair from Penticton to Vernon over the course of the seven strolls.
“We’ve walked 80 km in the last two days so the feet are a little sore but the positivity and all the people showing support has made it all worth it,” said Schretlen.
While the walk may not be garnering massive crowds, the more than 80 people who turned up at the Kelowna walk and the dozens in smaller communities are walking with a fiery passion according to Schretlen.
“What has been really exciting for me during this is that I have seen a lot of people who are wanting to make a change and are taking the steps and having the courage to open up the conversation,” he adds.
Throughout the last few months of ramping up for the strolls and the walks that have already taken place, Schretlen and the Okanagan have managed to raise over $7,000 through online donations, participant fundraising and Stigma Stroll t-shirt sales.
That impressive sum will go on to support the Third Space Community Care Fund, an initiative that makes counseling more accessible to our community through subsidizing or fully covering the cost of sessions to those in need.
If you are unable to attend one of the strolls but are still interested in supporting the cause visit www.stigmastroll.ca