Not all injuries are visible.
That’s the idea behind the Wounded Warriors Run BC fundraiser, which is coming back to Vancouver Island for a fifth time in three weeks.
The annual event raises funds for the Wounded Warriors Canada (WCC), a non-profit organization that seeks to help military veterans and first responders suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Every year, a small team of endurance athletes runs relay-style down the length of Vancouver Island, starting in Port Hardy and making their way to Victoria over the course of a week.
The runners stop at legions, community centres, and fire halls at the end of each day to meet people, share and hear stories, and raise awareness of mental health-related issues.
Wounded Warrior Run BC director Jacqueline Zweng said the motivation behind the fundraiser was an influx of reported suicides among veterans suffering from PTSD.
In 2014, statistics from the National Defence Department showed that 160 Canadian military personnel had taken their own lives between 2004 and March 31, 2014.
“It’s actually more difficult for people to get help for mental injuries and we want to be there to show people that there is a way, that we’re here to help and that Wounded Warriors Canada is committed to providing programming that can help our veterans and first responders,” said Zweng.
“We believe that we’re all in this together. For the people that stand up and support our communities every day, we also need to give back and support them.”
Zweng said that when the Wounded Warriors Run BC began, the team’s goal was to raise $5,000 for the WWC. They ended up raising $20,000 instead.
And it’s only gotten bigger since then — the goal for 2018 is to raise $100,000.
Zweng, who ran in the event last year, said it was a life-changing experience.
“I am a breast cancer patient and was still doing active treatment at the time. I did experience some of my own trauma during my cancer experience,” she said. “Being able to talk about that and connect with the community was really important.”
The run takes place Feb. 19–25 this year. Seven runners are participating, including Matt Carlson, Bernice Smith, Simon Brown, Chris Loran, Brett Malcolm, Mark Dankwerth, and Steve Deschamps.
The runners will each run between 30 and 60 kilometres per day.
To raise awareness of the upcoming run, a kick-off event and media launch for the 2018 Wounded Warrior Run BC will be held Thursday, Feb. 1 from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Jim Pattison Subaru in Victoria. The Colwood-based dealership is one of the fundraiser’s main sponsors and supplies the team with two vehicles for the run.