A trio of local teachers is close to crossing the finish line in support of youth mental health.
Nancy Newman, Collingwood resident and teacher at Byng Public School in Stayner, Aaryn Coutts, Barrie resident and teacher at Ferndale Woods Elementary School in Barrie and James Carson, Wasaga Beach resident and teacher at Birchview Dunes Elementary School in Wasaga Beach have been on the road since July 1 doing a cross-Canada trek in support of Royal Victoria Hospital’s youth mental-health educational programs.
Their fundraising goal was $30,000. As of last week, the group has raised $36,000 and the number is still climbing.
“All three of us are teachers. We see the need for mental health services rising,” said Newman. “We see this in kids starting in Kindergarten and all the way through.”
“We decided we wanted to make a difference for the kids in our community,” she added.
While Newman has batted the idea around in her mind for the past 10 years, about two years ago, she said she started planning the trip with Carson. Due to some health issues, last summer Carson opted to switch gears and instead act as the support driver for the trip, so they invited Coutts along instead to switch with Newman for the cycling portion.
Newman and Coutts have been pushing through the ride like a relay, each doing half the daily distance while the other rests in the RV.
The trio took off from St. John’s, N.L. on July 1. On Aug. 8, they crossed into British Columbia.
“We have seven more days... until we plan to be in Vancouver,” said Newman.
The seven-week trek hasn’t been without its difficulties.
“I had a crash in Manitoba. I ended up having to get some stitches in my knee,” said Newman. “I had to go see a doctor. A couple of days later, I had to go back because it was infected. I took one day off, but was able to continue riding after that.”
“I’m still going,” she said, with a laugh.
Throughout their travels, Newman said the group has been most taken aback by the kindness of strangers.
“Canada is full of incredible people,” said Newman. “We’re travelling in an RV. A few months ago, we put out on social media the list of stop locations and dates. We were hoping to park in someone’s driveway to plug in for the night.”
“Lots of people messaged us. When we arrive (at these places), many people give us meals or even let us sleep inside their homes. They do laundry for us. It’s just been really incredible, the generosity of people all across the country,” she added.
The hardest part of the trip so far hasn’t been the physical endurance.
“The hardest thing, for us, has been being away from our families for this long,” said Newman. “We’ve had days where we just have to push through it and realize that what we’re doing is a really good thing. We will, eventually, make it home again.”
A welcome-back gathering for the trio will be taking place outside the RVH cancer centre in Barrie on Aug. 22 at 4 p.m., and members of the public are invited to attend.
To follow the trio’s progress or to donate to their campaign, click here.