When strangers came up to her, wanting to talk about their experiences with suicide, Kelly Paul realized more has to be done to help.
Paul, from the Tsartlip First Nation, spoke with many people about the impact suicide has had on their lives during a marathon run from Port Hardy to the Saanich Peninsula back in 2013. Now, she and five others are getting ready to do it again this summer.
Paul started the Heliset Hale Marathon that year and has remade it into a relay, covering the same route, and trying to reach Vancouver Island First Nations communities with a similar message of hope.
“What stood out for me during that first marathon,” she said,” was how it created an opportunity to let others know they can talk about suicide.”
Paul’s brother, at 17, ended his own life and that act helped her create the Heliset Hale Relay — whose title means ‘awaken life within’.
She said the relay will encourage people in those communities to talk about suicide and offer options and where to access support for people in distress.
“It’s a healing journey,” Paul said, “for us and for people wanting to share their stories.”
On Monday, June 20, Paul and relay runners John Sampson and Bernice Smith — who ran it in 2013 with Paul — will run through each of the four Peninsula First Nations communities to raise awareness of the relay itself, which will start in Port Hardy on September 16.
Paul added they will be joined by three other runners for the relay, which is scheduled to end on September 25 back on the Peninsula.
“We hope this relay can bring to light local connections, allow people to share their experiences and spread messages of hope and healing,” she said. “The idea is to prevent suicide in these communities.”
She said the core trio of runners have already started training for the 500-kilometre-long relay.
They kick off the early awareness campaign June 20 at 8:30 a.m. at the Lau Welnew Tribal School on West Saanich Road.
They will run to the Pauquachin First Nation for 9:30 and then plan to be in the Tseycum community by 10:30.
There’s a lunch and public information stop at the Tsawout First Nation from 12 to approximately 1 p.m., followed by a return leg to the tribal school.
To find out more about the Heliset Hale Relay, contact co-ordinator Bonnie Seward at 250-516-2845 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.