A local man is planning to walk the Birchwood Trails in support of ending the stigma around mental health.
For the second year in a row, Julio Florez – joined this year by his daughter Katrina – will be walking the trails for 12 hours in an attempt to start a conversation and help raise funds for the Canadian Mental Health Association of Wood Buffalo.
He created the event ‘Birchwood For Ben’ last year to honour his son who died in 2016 from an overdose.
In the years following, Florez took to physical activity, which he calls his saving grace, to help deal with his mental struggles.
He tells Mix News walking helps him when he’s feeling down and this event is about encouraging others to reach out and find what helps them.
“The hope is that by sharing our pain we may be able to prompt at least one person to take action on their mental wellness or take action on helping a loved one or anyone.”
Last year, Florez was able to raise around $5,700 for CMHA Wood Buffalo.
He’s hoping to raise even more this year as many are finding themselves struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s flood, and the economic downturn.
According to the CMHA, around 38 per cent of Canadians have been struggling since the start of the pandemic.
Florez says organizations like the Canadian Mental Health Association were already seeing their resources stretched before the events of last year.
“There are not enough resources to tend to people who are in need of finding help. I experienced that myself in the first one to two years after my wonderful Benjamin passed.”
Florez will walk the Birchwood Trails on February 4, Ben’s Birthday, from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
The public is also welcome to join him, following all COVID-19 protocols, or donate to his cause.
Last year, around 100 people including one person from Scotland joined Florez on the trails.