When she was preparing to approach some fellow Olympians to help her with a cause near and dear to her, Mercedes Nicoll felt a little apprehension.
Instead, everyone Nicoll asked to volunteer for a fundraiser for Jack.org jumped onboard almost immediately. Britt Janyk, Tara Teigen, Maelle Ricker and Robbie Dixon are all set to support Nicoll in the endeavour.
“I was so nervous. I’m going to ask my friends that I’ve known for most of my life and I’m really taking a chance,” she recalled. “I texted them as I was sitting in the Jack.org office and all of them got right back to me with a yes. It gave me goosebumps. I was so happy. Tara Teigen said she had just finished meditating for her mental health.”
Nicoll explained the contest is a process where interested people apply to participate, and 25 applicants will be selected to take part in the half-day of skiing or snowboarding on Dec. 15. Those selected then must raise a minimum of $200 to go to Jack.org; Ride With an Olympian sessions typically run upwards of $900. Nicoll expects the application process will close this Monday, Nov. 26. Those interested in applying can do so at https://jack.org/ride-with-an-olympian.
“We need to know their ability of skiing or snowboarding,” Nicoll said. “Once they do apply, 25 will be chosen and those 25 will be the ones raising the funds.”
Jack.org’s founder is Toronto’s Eric Windeler, who lost his son Jack to suicide in 2010 and has made it his mission to advocate for youth mental health. Nicoll said she hopes the contest helps the organization further spread its roots here in Western Canada.
“They empower youth, and have summits and (local) chapters throughout Canada,” Nicoll explained. “(The organization) gives (young people) the tools to talk about mental health in schools, give speeches, and make the stigma disappear.”
Nicoll first connected with Jack.org last year, and she was featured in a video where she spoke about her own struggles with depression.
“It was a really great fit and when I learned about this program, I thought ‘This is exactly what the world needs—youth being OK with talking about it and sharing their stories so that everyone knows that they’re not alone,’” Nicoll said. “It’s necessary for the next generation to grow up and have that open conversation and not say, ‘You’re depressed, you’re bipolar, that’s weird.’ A lot of people go through it and a lot of people are afraid to talk about it, but once you do open up those doors, you find out that other people are going through the same thing. The more we talk about it, the better the whole world will be.”
Nicoll said she hopes to make the contest an annual fundraiser for the organization, as she hopes to use her platform as an athlete for good.
“I was talking to a couple friends of mine in Whistler and they’re saying, ‘I realized that that was what it was. I was suffering from depression and because you told your story, I realized that that’s what had happened to me.’ It’s so amazing to hear other people’s stories because I shared my one story,” she said. “Sometimes I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing, but then when people come up to me and tell me that it is making an impact, you want to do it more.”