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Overcoming Mountains for Mental Health

admin August 5, 2014

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Kate Montgomery’s story is one of loss — and its consequences. Last year, when the Vancouverite lost her stepfather, with whom she was very close, she spiralled into a deep depression.

“I really struggled to cope. I wasn’t sleeping, I had a lot of anxiety. When I finally saw my doctor for help, he just took my hand and said ‘you need to talk to someone, you have to see a counsellor.’”

Counselling played a major role in getting her life back on track, so when she heard about “Done In A Day” — a fundraiser hike organized by the Burnaby Counselling Group that challenged participants to complete the Baden Powell trail, a 48-km hike in a single day — Kate knew it would be a great way to give back.

“I had hiked into the Grand Canyon for 10 miles, but I had never done anything of this magnitude. So, that was a bit daunting,” she says.

What won her over was the opportunity to raise money for a cause close to her heart. “I have good health coverage, but a lot of people don’t and they can’t afford to see a counsellor. That’s a huge problem,” she says. “Mental illness affects our lives and our communities and counselling really can be a solution.”

The Snowball Effect: Gaining Momentum for a Good Cause

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For six weeks leading up to the hike, Kate and 23 other charitable hikers set up fundraising pages on Chimp — called Giving Groups — to raise money for the Burnaby Counselling Group’s subsidy program. The program provides access to counselling for people who would otherwise not be able to afford it.

To spread the word about her fundraiser, Kate relied on the snowball effect. She sent out an email to three of her closest friends — along with a plea to give and distribute her email to the recipient’s networks. “That strategy worked incredibly well. And I also posted photos of my training hikes on Facebook,” Kate remembers.

Kate’s supporters gave over $5,000 to her Giving Group. “In the end I had strangers giving to my Giving Group, sending me motivational messages, saying that my story had really touched them.”

The recipe behind Kate’s fundraising success also included a $1,500 matching grant from her employer and a collaborative, social outreach strategy that involved sharing her personal experience with mental illness.

“If you can say to somebody ‘whatever you give, that money will be doubled’, that’s a huge motivation for people to make a donation,” says Kate.

Done in a Day fundraising efforts resulted in $29,000 — the equivalent of roughly 470 subsidized counselling sessions.

“We doubled the number of participants this year and exceeded our initial goal of $25,000,” says Burnaby Counselling Group Director Chris Fong, “I don’t think that would have happened without Chimp’s help. The one-on-one support they provided with fundraising and setting up our campaign page was amazing.”

And the group’s Community Engagement Officer Maffy (whose last name has been withheld at her request) adds “Chimp is such an attractive fundraising platform and I think that appealed especially to younger supporters. I remember running to Chris all excited and saying ‘More than half of the people who signed up are down for fundraising.’ We didn’t expect that at all.”

Kate: “Mental Illness Affects Our Lives and Our Communities”

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On June 21, after 15 hours of arduous hiking, a happy but exhausted Kate crossed the finish line near Deep Cove.

“Parts of it were really hard, but the support throughout the hike, both from my friends and the volunteers at the checkpoints, was just overwhelming,” she says.

“My friends kept texting and calling me saying ‘Go, Kate!’ I mean, I just had to keep going. I couldn’t let them down.”

Her fundraiser also made her aware of how widespread an issue mental illness is in Canada. Many of Kate’s supporters sent her messages, she says, admitting maybe for the first time ever how much seeking help has made a difference.

“People are more open to talk about mental illness and counselling these days, but there’s still a huge stigma attached to that kind of thing.”

A Platform to End the Stigma Around Mental Health

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It often takes a special occasion for people to come out of their shell and feel comfortable enough to talk about their struggles, Maffy says. “Events like ‘Done In A Day’ are a great platform for us to speak about mental health and a great opportunity for people to tell their stories in a safe space.”

In Canada, over 3 million people are suffering from mental illness, according to research by the Canadian Mental Health Association. Less than half seek professional help.

“Canada has universal health care,” Chris says. “But a lot of times the mental health aspect is neglected and not considered essential. At the Burnaby Counselling Group we fill in part of that gap and focus on mental health.”

To keep the group’s subsidies program up and running, Done In A Day will see a repeat next year. And Kate is considering to be on board again, too.

“I was so sore the day after the hike that I couldn’t even get out of bed until six in the evening the next day,” Kate says. “But it definitely felt good to be able to give back!”

Ready to Fundraise?

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