Fort McMurray Man Planning 12-Hour Walk in Support of Son and Mental Health Programs

A Fort McMurray man is planning to walk the Birchwood Trails to help shine a light on mental health.

Julio Florez is looking to raise funds for mental health programs while celebrating the life of his son Ben who passed away in 2016.

The event, called ‘Birchwood For Ben,’ is being held on what would have been Ben’s 25th birthday.

“Like many of us, Ben would feel overwhelmed by some of life’s challenges and often found refuge being outdoors and surrounded by nature-as I often do too,” said Florez, in a release.

“I want to help normalize the conversation about mental health, how it affects us all and the importance of seeking professional help.”

Florez says physical activity was his saving grace while dealing with his own demons after the passing of Ben.

“It is because of professional guidance and physical activity that I have been better able to deal with my own grief and challenges,” he added.

The Canadian Mental Association of Wood Buffalo says 70 per cent of mental health problems start during childhood or adolescence.

They state people between the ages of 15-24 are more likely to deal with a mental illness than any other age group.

“Our region needs to encourage more youth to feel comfortable to reach out for support, but
stigma remains a barrier,” said Emma Jones, CMHA Community Relations Manager.

“CMHA Wood Buffalo commends Julio for taking a tragic event to support other families facing similar journeys by raising awareness and funding for mental health programs.”

Florez will walk for 12 hours in the Birchwood Trails on February 4 from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. He’ll start his journey from the Doug Barnes Cabin.

The public is also welcome to join him or donate to his cause.

So far, he has been able to collect nearly $2,000.

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