Lisa Porco watched people she cared about struggle with mental health issues back in 2018 and when she found a way to step up and help she decided to run for solutions.
The past participant in the Run for Change can’t be any more excited about participating again this year – virtually.
“I love our running community and participating in local charity runs because they are so energizing and positive and you can really see what an amazing and supportive community we have,” she said.
“When I came across the Run for Change event back in 2018, I knew I wanted to participate. I loved what I read about Strong Minds. I can really appreciate the value of using fitness and exercise as a treatment for anxiety and depression,” Porco said.
The Fourth Annual Run for Change event by Strong Minds will be hosted virtually for the second year in a row. The event is scheduled for Saturday, May 8, during mental health awareness week.
Porco became an advocate for mental health after seeing her daughter struggle with it in 2018. Sports and physical activity have always been the gateway for her daughter to feel better.
“In 2018, my daughter had just begun to struggle with anxiety, and one place that always made her feel good and safe was with her soccer team and being active,” she said.
Porco and her daughter have participated in previous years and recently have joined the Strong Minds committee together.
“I have participated in two of the Run for Change events before this year,” she said. “I missed one because we were away at soccer, but this year feels even more special because my daughter and I have joined the Strong Minds committee, and we will be participating together on Saturday, May 8.
To protect the community and support those with mental health while addressing the stigma associated with mental health and addiction, the Strong Minds committee decided not to host an in-person event this year.
“The reality is that due to concerns surrounding COVID-19 and government guidelines. This is what has to happen,” said Amanda Lambert, registered health and exercise practitioner and CEO of Strong Minds.
By hosting the event virtually, Lambert says the event won’t “have a cut-off,” and all registrants will be able to participate.
As much as Lambert is saddened, the event can’t be hosted in person she looks to the brighter side of things and that having a virtual event gives more opportunity for individuals outside of Sault Ste. Marie to participate.
“The positive side of having it virtual is people from different cities can participate in this event. Of course, Sault Ste. Marie is where the Run for Change started, but it is nice that last year I had people from Sudbury and White River participate,” she said.
“As much as we often tend to think of the negative of this pandemic. We have to really start changing our mindsets and looking at the positive side. It is giving people the opportunity to participate,” Lambert said.
Sarah Skagen, a new participant for the Run for Change, is also eager to get started. Since the pandemic, she has been working on her fitness health goals and thought the Run for Change would be the perfect running event to complete her first 5 km run.
“I've always wanted to run five kilometres, so a friend of mine mentioned to me that we should actually run it together. And I said yes,” Skagen said.
“I started looking into it, and I realized that I knew Amanda Lambert and that she does all kinds of wonderful things in the community with her Strong Minds business, and supporting mental health is definitely something that I'm passionate about for a long time, so it all tied together really well,” she said.
Skagen enjoys that the event will be hosted during mental health awareness week, which runs from Monday, May 3, to Sunday, May 9. It is something very important to her. Even more so now, in the wake of the pandemic, she's focused more on her mental health.
“I’ve noticed for myself that focusing on my physical health throughout COVID-19 has actually made a big difference in my mental health as well as making sure that I’m active,” she said. “It gives you the endorphins. Endorphins that you need to succeed in your day. So making sure that I have a reason to exercise is actually making my mental health a whole lot better.”
Skagen looks forward that the event will be virtual. As this is her first five-kilometre run, she thinks it’s perfect, and she won’t have the added pressure of people seeing her run for the first time.
“For my first five kilometres, it’s perfect because it’s virtual and nobody’s gonna have to see me do it,” she said.
Although she will be completing the run independently or with a friend, Skagen waits for the day everyone can meet again. But she does feel like she will be connected with the other individuals participating in the event that day.
“I'm looking forward to being able to get together with groups again because I miss the energy of being around people,” she said. “I still think it's really important to find different ways to connect. Knowing that everybody's going to be doing the same thing on the same day gives you a feeling of community and connection, so it's to be able to do those things as well.”
Participants will have all day to complete the 5 km run or walk. The event will begin at 9 a.m. and go until 6 p.m. Entry fees are $30 per individual and $125 per group of five. Individuals can purchase tickets at eventbright.ca or on The Strong Minds website.
All proceeds of the events will stay within the community and be donated to mental health initiatives.