Rebecca Schillemat will be lacing up with some other people from military and first responder backgrounds this month for the annual Wounded Warrior Run.
This marks the seventh time the event has been held on Vancouver Island.
“It’s a very Island event,” she says.
She’s the Comox Valley’s sole member of the team this year. Her husband, Patrick, works as military police in Comox, and she is part of the team that’s raising awareness and funds for efforts to help military and first responders with mental health supports. The plan is to raise $250,000 with this year’s run for Wounded Warriors Canada.
“It’s all for mental health support,” she says.
The Wounded Warrior Run takes place from Feb. 23 to March 1, starting at the north part of the Island in Port Hardy and heading about 600 kilometres south to Victoria.
Schillemat is not sure what to expect, saying it could feel like winter when they start in the north and like spring a week later in the capital.
The finale happens the afternoon of March 1, as the team runs toward the legislature. Schillemat points out that people are welcome to join in for the last kilometre and be part of the event.
“It’s open to anyone that wants to come and join us,” she said.
People in the military or who work as first responders work face an increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. According to the Wounded Warrior website, a third of the people leaving the military have difficulty making a transition back to civilian life, while estimates for the proportion of first responders who will develop PTSD run between 10 and 35 per cent.
The fundraising has already started. On Feb. 9, the team held a gala dinner in Victoria, which raised about $25,000, and a 60-km media ride between Sooke and Sidney, which brought in almost $15,000.
All this helps raise money for a range of supports to help people in the military or emergency services. For example, Schillemat says, it can cost about $30,000 for a service dog.
For Schillemat, this is the first time she’s taking part. She applied and had an interview about joining the team, then found out in the fall she made it.
“As a runner, all I have to worry about is show up and run,” she says.
She’s also had a little training to do in the meantime.
“I have to be prepared to run 20 kilometres a day for eight days,” she adds.
She is working with a coach, as she builds up stamina slowly to help with the run and avoid injuries. She’s also started with the Comox Valley Road Runners to add to her training.
“It really is a group that supports each other,” she adds.
Other fundraising includes donations and a raffle through 888 Wing, while Schillemat also held her own raffle in December to raise money. She says people can make donations for the cause online, or get more information at https://woundedwarriors.ca/events/wounded-warrior-bc-run/