The annual Wounded Warrior Run BC is making its way down Island raising money to put towards programs supporting first responders, veterans and their families, and it pulled into Campbell River on Tuesday afternoon.
The run left Port Hardy on Sunday and took two days to make it the 260 kilometres to Campbell River. It will now continue down through the Comox Valley, make a detour over to Port Alberni, then back to Highway 19 and continue its way down to Victoria.
The run, in total, covers over 600 km and takes eight days.
But it’s more than worth it, according to run director Jacqueline Zweng, who says the support they receive from the communities along the route is what keeps them going through the rain, wind, cold mornings and difficult hill climbs.
For runner Rebecca Schillemat of Comox, the run is about supporting her family and friends in the military.
“I’d seen some of my husband’s co-workers have some issues and didn’t really like how it got handled,” she said, “and thought maybe I could try and help with bringing more awareness by doing this.”
She’s noticing the farther the team travels down the Island, the busier it gets.
“Starting up in Port Hardy and it’s quiet and you pass like five cars and that’s it and then you come in here and there’s just so many cars going by,” she said. “It seems like the run goes by a lot quicker too when there’s so much going on.”
Schillemat ran a leg into Campbell River on Tuesday.
Thinking about Wounded Warrior’s cause keeps her moving when the going gets tough.
“A bit of physical pain for me for an hour is nothing compared to mental battles,” she said.
After a good night’s sleep at the Comfort Inn downtown, the team headed to Serious Coffee in Willow Point for an official welcome to – and send-off from – Campbell River.
The team of runners and supporters prepared for the day’s 58 km leg to Comox over coffee and baked goods. They welcomed community members with smiles and celebrated their current fundraised amount. Just four days into the run, the team has raised nearly $100,000 – including local support from the Campbell River City Council to the tune of $2,500 as well as $250 from the Campbell River Fire Fighters. Serious Coffee also has a fundraiser for the campaign that runs the month of February.
After a group photo in front of Serious Coffee, the team piled into support vehicles as the first runner left on the first leg of the day.
Campbell River RCMP provided a police escort on the way out of town and Const. Maury Tyre was happy to help on his day off.
“When I was asked to help out with the run, it was an easy decision,” he said. “PTSD symptoms have removed me from the road during the course of my career and bringing awareness to the issues facing first responders while ensuring these runners were safe was an excellent use of my day off.”
The team had one planned stop at the Oyster River Fire Department Wednesday before arriving in Courtenay and Comox.
Wednesday afternoon’s arrival in the Comox Valley is a homecoming for Schillemat.
“I live in Comox, so I’m running home,” she said. “It’ll be really nice. It’ll be really emotional.”
The run ends in Victoria on March 1 and organizers are hoping to raise $250,000 this year – twice last year’s goal – which Zweng says will go a long way in helping the cause.
“The more people that stand up and say we need to do something about this, means there’s more people we need to help,” she said, “and in order to do that, we need to have the funds there to be able to put on more programs.”
But almost as importantly, the run also brings awareness to the often-invisible, but sometimes devastating effects of mental health issues faced by our uniformed service members as they fight the effects of operational stress injuries like PTSD.
“We have so much support coming in and this run is growing and growing and the awareness is growing and more and more people are talking about mental health and talking about trauma-exposed professions and what it means to go to work everyday and have the – you’re definitely going to be exposed to trauma at some point,” she said. “It’s not a question; it’s an absolute.”
You can find out more about the run, exactly what kinds of programs and services they’re raising money for, and follow along was they make their way down-Island at woundedwarriors.ca/events/wounded-warrior-bc-run.