Whistlerites Ginny and Kerry Dennehy are the first to admit they're likely the only people to ever bike across Canada and actually gain weight.
Fortunately, weight-loss was not the couple's primary goal on their three-month Enough is Enough Tour, which wrapped Sunday (Aug. 11) and raised over $700,000 for the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation, named in memory of their son who took his own life at the age of 17 after battling with depression.
Kicking off their tour from Whistler in May, the Dennehys traveled over 8,000 km and visited 50 communities across Canada to create awareness of the stigma attached to mental health issues. They also met with healthcare professionals to discuss best practices and their goal of establishing a Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre in each province and territory. The centre was founded in 2007 as part of the BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver, and provides mental health resources and support to young people.
After three months on the road, often fighting poor weather conditions, the Dennehys are grateful to be retuning home with new insights on mental healthcare.
"It was quite emotional to finally have made it the whole way. It's been an amazing journey, and amazing in so many different ways; physically, mentally and emotionally," said Ginny. "All the people that we connected with have been very interesting, (including) all the people we connected with learning about what they're doing in mental health. I believe what we can do is learn from each other and take the best practices of what's going on in each province and use that."
With their tour receiving widespread coverage in both local and national media, the Dennehys were often greeted by mobs of supporters at the various rallies held in communities across Canada. The couple shared their story with audiences, but it was often the guest speakers discussing their own struggles with mental illness that had the biggest impact.
"It really was an amazing thing because people sometimes want to really come out of the closet almost and talk about (their experience), and then they feel in a safe environment to do it," said Ginny. "The strength of some of these people who would get up and say 'I suffer from depression and I always did, and I was afraid to tell my employer' was amazing. So I think we're starting to remove that stigma, which I think is so important."
So far, the Dennehys have raised over $700,000 for their foundation, and the funds raised in each province will go towards mental health initiatives in those areas. While they're currently short of their original $2-million goal, Kerry is confident the full amount will be raised in due time.
"I still think we're going to make $2 million given the fact there's a big rumour (of a large donation) when we land back in Whistler," he said.
More than the money, however, Ginny said the major mission of their cross-country tour was to get people to consider depression like any other disease.
The Denneys expressed their gratitude for support from so many across Canada, and especially Whistlerites, who not only provided financial and moral support during the trek, but also in the years since the death of Kelty, and their daughter Riley who passed away suddenly in 2009 while living in Thailand.
"Whistler has been so supportive of our family through everything that's happened to us," said Ginny. "We live in a very special place, and without all my friends in Whistler and the community at large, I don't know if I could have gotten through what I got through."
There will be an event on Aug. 28 in Vancouver to mark the end of the Dennehys' tour that will be attended by B.C. Premier Christy Clark. The rally will be held in the Terry Fox Plaza and begins at noon. Another ceremony will be held the following day in Whistler at Olympic Plaza, also at noon.
For more information visit www.thekeltyfoundation.org.