ARTHUR – Myrna Hutchison is very please with preliminary figures indicating the #GetInTouchForHutch event last weekend raised about $50,000 for mental health initiatives.
But she also hopes the second annual 1km/5km walk and run and lacrosse game helped meet the event’s main objective: ending the stigma that surrounds mental illness.
Hutchison is certain it was that stigma that prevented her son Steven from reaching out to the many people who cared about him before taking his own life in February, 2013.
“What stopped him? It could only be the stigma,” she said.
“Maybe, just maybe, with all that he had going on he was feeling just a little bit overwhelmed.”
Hutchison told about 600 participants prior to the June 28 run that although many people suffer from some form of mental illness, their struggle is not always readily apparent to friends and family.
“Don’t be surprised when I tell you every one of those people looks absolutely normal on the outside,” she said. “What we do know about mental illness is that it’s all that stress, all that hurt on the inside … that causes those dark days.”
Paulie O’Byrne, who once lived in the Mount Forest area, told the crowd he certainly knows about the tough times battling mental illness.
O’Byrne recounted the emotional story of his long battle with depression, substance abuse and self harm, beginning with the loss of several close friends in car crashes and escalating with molestation by a once-trusted mentor.
“I’m the happiest I have ever been,” he said after highlighting his recovery.
O’Byrne, who also announced he has been sober for six months, said he feels a strong connection to Steven, known by many as “Hutch,” and the Hutchison Family.
Myrna Hutchison was among many who thanked O’Byrne for his powerful story and message.
“I think it was a great day and Paulie’s story was so inspirational. People are coming out to talk about their own struggles,” Hutchison told the advertiser.
The day began with a ceremonial photo and balloon release, as well as the singing of O’Canada by Lisa Billaid, a close friend of Steven’s.
Following the run/walk, there was a charity lacrosse game at the adjacent arena featuring local and National Lacrosse League players.
While final fundraising totals were not known by press time, Hutchison was very pleased with the events and noted her family and members of the event committee will take some time off before planning begins for next year’s event.
She was gracious for all the assistance that helped make the fundraiser such a success.
“We are grateful to the participants, our community partners who attended, our sponsors, our volunteers and last but not least, our amazing committee,” Hutchison told the Advertiser.
“An event of this size does not happen on it’s own, it comes together as a result of everyone who touches a piece of it.”
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