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Enough is Enough mental health fundraising journey ends in Whistler

Dennehys raise almost $2 million on cross-country trip for Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation



It was raining heavily but Ginny Dennehy called it a "dry rain," by which she meant it was warm and easy to ride through.

As the skies parted and poured forth on Aug. 29, Ginny and her husband Kerry Dennehy rode their bikes on the last leg of their 8,000km cross-Canada Enough is Enough mental health awareness fundraising tour.

For the last 60km, from Squamish to the Whistler Olympic Plaza, they were accompanied by eight cycling companions trough the pouring rain. A planned homecoming at the Olympic Plaza was hastily reconvened at Millennium Place, which was packed with supporters.

A day later, Ginny recalled the return home and the reception they got as being "fantastic."

The last hundred metres into the Olympic Plaza was very emotional, Ginny said.

"There were so many people there and they had a big banner that we went through, but because of the weather we had our rally at Millennium Place. (It) was really amazing to see the number of people in there. It was nearly full."

A week or so earlier, the couple had dipped their toes in the Atlantic, having left Whistler in early May.

"The whole objective of the ride was to raise the awareness of mental health and to remove the stigma, and of course raise some funds so we could have our dream of a Kelty Mental Health resource centre in every province across Canada," Ginny said.

"We learned so much when we were on the road. Connecting with people doing similar things and hearing what they'd been doing, and how they were connecting with others — it was really good, meeting these doctors and people. We want to share what we learned in order to help other people."

The Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation was founded in 2001 in the memory of Ginny and Kerry's son, Kelty, who committed suicide after a battle with depression. The foundation supports programs, project and institutions that support young people with depression and their families.

At the heart of this is the aim to establish mental health resource centres across the country.

In this, the latest and probably grandest fundraising project they've taken on so far, The Dennehys raised just under $2 million for their efforts, with a cool million coming from the generosity of Whistler residents Andy and Cheryl Szocs.

"I feel one of our strongest areas where we can all make a difference is reducing the stigma of depression," said Szocs.

"My funds will be directed in that direction as I believe everyone can carry the torch in this effort.

"I have been very impressed with Ginny and Kerry's dedication to the cause of depression... Yes, you can make a difference."

Ginny called Szocs, who was on the board of the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation for five years, a leader in the cause. "Here is someone who has totally believed in the cause and totally believed in us as people who can help remove the stigma," she said.

Whistler's Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden was at Millennium Place to welcome the Dennehys back.

"It was really emotional, moving and impressive," Wilhelm-Morden said. "Almost more important than the money they raised is the awareness with respect to mental health issues and stigma associated with people with mental health problems."

"It was celebratory at the same time, they have done so much."

The Kelty Patrick Dennehy centre at BC Children's Hospital is up and running. The next one, The Hope Centre at the Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, is due to open January 2014, and they are involved with Vancouver General Hospital's new project, a $12 million mental health pavilion funded by Joe and Rosalie Segal.

And there is interest in other cities, like Calgary and Winnipeg, though no final projects are agreed to as yet in those cities.

"When we went across Canada and we met all these doctors and professionals who are in the mental health business, it was a good eye-opener for us," said Ginny. "We saw a lot of duplication being done and what would be nice is to take the best practices being done across the country and amalgamated them."

Said Kerry: "We have money still coming in in dribs and drabs because of our rallies. We might also be invited back to Calgary because we made big plans there. So we may go back there to further the cause of getting a Kelty Mental Research Centre in Calgary. It's pending."

And what the couple would like to do more than almost anything is establish a similar project in Whistler. Wilhelm-Morden said that the Resort Municipality of Whistler is considering what role it can play in the Dennehys' efforts.

With files from Alison Taylor