Run WYLD fundraiser takes inspiration from youth heading to camp this year

Sophie O’Brien and Mack Punter run between Gold River and the Strathcona Park Lodge on Buttle Lake on June 5. Photo courtesy Sophie O’BrienSophie O’Brien and Mack Punter run between Gold River and the Strathcona Park Lodge on Buttle Lake on June 5. Photo courtesy Sophie O’Brien
Sophie O’Brien (second from left) and Mack Punter (second from right) get some company as they run between Gold River and the Strathcona Park Lodge on June 5. Photo courtesy Sophie O’BrienSophie O’Brien (second from left) and Mack Punter (second from right) get some company as they run between Gold River and the Strathcona Park Lodge on June 5. Photo courtesy Sophie O’Brien
The welcoming committee cheers as Sophie O’Brien finishes her run to raise money to send youth to WYLD camps. Photo courtesy Sophie O’BrienThe welcoming committee cheers as Sophie O’Brien finishes her run to raise money to send youth to WYLD camps. Photo courtesy Sophie O’Brien

For a while, Sophie O’Brien wasn’t sure about whether or not she would be doing a run to raise money for the Strathcona Park Lodge’s WYLD program again this year.

She had done a run last year, running from Myra Falls to the lodge on Buttle Lake, raising money to send five youth from smaller communities (Gold River, Zeballos, Kyuquot or Tahsis) to the WYLD camps. She did want to do it again, the idea of being able to help people access the outdoors and provide the skills both physical and mental that would benefit these youth later in life is the whole reason she got into this business. However, she is not immune to doubt or anxieties just like the rest of us.

“This year felt a bit different from last year,” she said. “Last year I put it out there quite early on. People knew about it and this year I had it in my mind, I had the date and everything. I was having my own struggles with doubting myself, so I was unsure if I was going to put it out there publicly.

“I realized that the things I was internalizing were the same things I hope these camps would do the opposite of for those youth. I really wanted to show them it was OK and that success and failure could only be defined by you,” she said.

“I didn’t want to go into it with a goal of a time or anything like that. I wanted to show that it was OK to just go out there and try and whatever happens is good enough.”

WYLD (Wilderness Youth Leadership Development) camps help young people gain skills in the outdoors, meet new friends and connect with themselves and others in an outdoor environment. The thing is, these 8-12 day camps run between $920 and $1879 depending on the particular camp. That’s why O’Brien originally had the idea to do the Run WYLD: to help kids who might not be able to afford to go have the experience she knows is very beneficial.

“Growing up, I had my own struggles with being anxious or maybe being not a part of a group,” O’Brien said. “I was noticing what I would want to role model and provide for people that may be are in similar situations. I wanted to create access, knowing that time outside and certain opportunities can just create turning points for people in their life. They can look back and see ‘OK that was a time where I felt really supported, and how can I use that in harder times.’

“The outdoors has been really impactful for my own well-being: just being able to connect with myself and others,” she said. “That’s my big hope for this project.”

The goal of the run, which she did on June 5, was to raise money to send five youth to the camp. Two families who will be sending youth to the camp met her at the start line to talk before she left.

“It was neat to meet them and hear about how important this opportunity is for them,” she said. “I was already inspired, and it gave me some extra inspiration.

She has gotten some donations from local businesses and previous lodge staff, but is looking for a bit more.

“After last year, I put out that I wanted to create a scholarship for the program so that youth could access these programs year after year,” she said. “I’ve been trying to focus on gaining larger donors that would maybe be able to support more of an ongoing project. I’ve had a couple which have been great, but nothing super significant in terms of large amounts, but it can definitely go towards that year.”

Those interested in donating can contact O’Brien at programs@strathconaparklodge.com or donate to the GoFundMe. There will also be a gear swap and BBQ held at On the Rocks Climbing Gym in Campbell River on June 25, with all proceeds going towards Run WYLD.



marc.kitteringham@campbellrivermirror.com

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